The U.S. Olympic swim team has been calling Knoxville home for the past week as part of their road to London, training on the UT campus. Thursday, we got a look inside at their practice, along with more than 1,200 fans who were lucky enough to get inside.
Some of those fans waited outside as long as five hours in the rain, hoping to get a chance to see the big names, like Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte, and Missy Franklin. But there are two local athletes that had a cheering section of their own.
"It's such a thrill. I do know this place well. I trained here for a whole year from 2008- 2009, with Matt Kredich," said swimmer Davis Tarwater. The Webb School graduate grew up in Knoxville and will be swimming on the 4x200 relay team.
Tarwater joked that he's become the official tour guide of Rocky Top.
"Being in Knoxville is almost surreal because I'm in the hotel downtown, but I know where to go and I know where to tell everyone to go," said Tarwater.
And he's really appreciating all the home town support.
"Just the support of the community, the outreach to me has been so special. I'm so thankful that these 1200 people so support the sport of swimming. It's just so awesome," he said.
Claire Donahue trains in Bowling Green, Kentucky, but grew up just 40 minutes outside Knoxville. The Lenoir City native had her whole family and friends out to watch her practice her 100-meter butterfly Thursday.
"Its just so cool to have us training here, because I'm from here. I was just so excited to actually be able to be near family," Donahue said. "Seeing how many people are there supporting you, and just the amount of people I saw today and standing in line and getting up at like 4:30 in the morning just to come watch us swim."
And if you are wondering just how popular these swimmers got overnight, well lets just say, Claire may need an extra answering machine.
"There's messages I still haven't even looked at because it's just so massive, and I'm starting to answer them . It s a slow process," she said.
After Knoxville, the swimmers will head to France to continue training, before they leave for London. The 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremonies will be July 27, followed by the 17 days of competition. You can watch it all on WBIR Channel 10.