By Lauren Gustus, USA TODAY
LONDON - Claire Donahue will be rooting for her own Olympic medal from the stands at the Aquatics Centre at London's Olympic Park on Saturday night.
Donahue swam the butterfly leg of the U.S. women's 4x100-meter individual medley relay preliminary today.
She and her relay teammates finished fourth overall in qualifying. The top eight teams move into Saturday's final.
"First, to be a part of this relay, in the morning, is awesome," said the 23-year-old from Lenoir City, Tenn. "And then to have a chance to get a gold medal is insane to me. Coming into this meet I was just happy to be here and to experience everything.
"And then coming out of it, to possibly get a medal is just insane. It's incredible."
The U.S. women's relay team is among the favorites, along with Australia, to win gold in the 4x100m IM. The foursome that will swim in Saturday's relay final won't be the same that competed today.
The U.S. team is deep enough that it can rest its fastest swimmers, like 100-meter butterfly gold medalist Dara Vollmer, in the preliminaries and give others a chance to get in on the gold. Any swimmer that participates in qualifying for a medal-winning relay team receives their own medal.
So Donahue, a Western Kentucky grad, will be pulling for her teammates from the stands. The women's race will be followed immediately by the men's 4x100-meter relay, final swimming event at the London Olympics.
"I'll probably be cheering so loud for everybody - in both of the relays," Donahue said. "Those are the last ones, so it kind of makes it extra exciting. So we'll all be on our feet cheering."
Lauren Gustus writes for the Reno Gazette-Journal.