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HomeGrown: Claire Donahue

9:35 PM, Oct 16, 2012   |    comments
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From the world's most competitive stage to the White House, Gold Medalist Claire Donahue is living beyond the dream.

"I still have to pinch myself sometimes... actually everyday," says Claire Donahue. "I've been dreaming of going to the Olympics since I was 10, but I never thought about if I actually made it."

She's come a long way since her very first splash in the Tellico Village pool at age six.

"I think about that little girl who came to practice because she loved it. I was the first one here, ready to jump in when they said we could."

She perfected her strokes in summer and year-round leagues. However, swimming wasn't her only passion. Claire also competed in track and field and even played the saxophone.

However, her senior year, she focused on swimming and it paid off. Claire won the 100 meter butterfly at state and scholarship offers from Wisconsin to Alabama. But her heart was set on Western Kentucky and it proved to be a good fit. Claire broke school records her freshman year.

And, as a senior, she won two gold medals at the Pan American Games and finished second at Nationals. With a degree in social work, Claire headed to the 2012 Olympic Trials.

"I knew pretty much as soon as I touched the wall. I'll never forget that moment."

Claire was Olympic bound. And, ironically, the journey to London included a practice in Knoxville.

"We were all going crazy in the van. We were just all so shocked at how many people were there and standing in line outside the Aquatic Center."

That excitement carried across the pond.

"When we first got to London I felt like a little kid."

She soaked up every moment from the Olympic Village and meeting other athletes to her first steps inside the London Aquatic Center.

"It was huge! A lot of times I had to just sit down and reflect on the day."

Claire placed 7th in the 100 meter butterfly. The highlight, of course, a gold medal for swimming in the preliminary heats of the 4×100-meter medley relay.

"I just couldn't stop staring at it. I just wanted to hold it and look at it."

And, life hasn't slowed down.

"The very first day I got home was so busy, overwhelming. I wasn't expecting it, but everyone has given so much to me."

Now, Claire's returning the favor, meeting as many fans as possible and perhaps inspiring future Olympians along the way.

"I love racing. I love competing and pushing myself."

So, it's back to the pool.

"The plan is four more years."

Yes, hopefully another Gold in Rio 2016!

"Anything is possible... I feel like I'm living proof of that."

Claire Donahue, HomeGrown in Tennessee.

"I'm very proud to be from Tennessee and be from this area, and being able to represent it well is an honor."

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