East Tennessee duo basks in first Olympic experience - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

East Tennessee duo basks in first Olympic experience

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Lenoir City native Clair Donahue (left) is one of two East Tennessee swimmers who will make their Olympic debut in London. (AP Photo) Lenoir City native Clair Donahue (left) is one of two East Tennessee swimmers who will make their Olympic debut in London. (AP Photo)
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KNOXVILLE (WRCB) -- As an Olympic rookie, Claire Donahue is constantly looking for tips from her veteran teammates.

However, this week's U.S. Olympic Swim Team training run in Knoxville has been a pleasant role-reversal for the Lenoir City native.

"It's kind of fun because people on the team will be wondering where to go to eat, and I'm always like, 'I know! I can tell you!" Donahue said with a smile.

The city and University of Tennessee campus are about the only things familiar for Donahue over the past two weeks.

The Western Kentucky grad's life has become a whirlwind since finishing second in the 100m butterfly at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Omaha, securing her first Olympic trip.

"When I touched the wall, I looked up and saw the number '2' next to my name, but I had to rip my cap and goggles off to make sure it was actually what I was seeing," Donahue said of her Olympic-clinching moment. "I just started crying a little bit because I was full of so many different emotions.

"It's something you can't really describe, that feeling, but it's better than anything I've ever felt before."

Knoxville native Davis Tarwater shared that feeling.

Tarwater was actually contemplating retirement on his way home from Omaha two weeks ago, where he fell short at the trials for a third time. His plans changed, however, when he landed in Charlotte and received a phone call that he'd been added to the team after Michael Phelps scratched the 200m freestyle from his Olympic schedule.

Like Donahue, the former Webb School star is trying to take in every moment of his first Summer Games experience.

"Team USA is going to bring home as much gold as we possibly can," Tarwater said while riling up a capacity crowd of screaming fans at the Allan Jones Intercollegiate Aquatic Center during Thursday morning's open practice.

Donahue was considered somewhat of a longshot in Omaha, having blossomed a little later in her career on the elite level.

But the 23-year-old's more unique journey has made it even more rewarding to wear the Red, White and Blue in London.

"I think the weirdest thing is thinking about where I was a year ago to now," Donahue said. "I feel like a totally different person. It's really neat to be able to look at myself now through what seems like totally different eyes."

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