LONDON — With one final opportunity to swim at the 2012 Olympics, former Western Kentucky University swimmer Claire Donahue guided Team USA to a fourth-place finish in the preliminary heats of the 4x100 medley relay on Friday in London, helping the team move on to Saturday's final after posting a time of 3:58.88, behind only Australia, Japan and Denmark.
Donahue, who placed seventh in the 100-meter butterfly at the 2012 Olympics, swam the butterfly leg of the relay race on Friday, recording a time of 58.05 seconds to hold Team USA in fourth place entering the final leg of the race. The 4x100 medley relay consists of the backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly and the freestyle as part of a 400-meter relay race. Donahue joined teammates Rachel Bootsma, Breeja Larson and Jessica Hardy as part of Team USA's lineup for the preliminary heats.
Donahue's time of 58.05 seconds in the 4x100 medley relay fell just behind her times of 57.42 seconds in the semifinals of the 100-meter butterfly and 57.48 seconds in the finals of the event last week in London. Donahue has experience in this particular relay race, as she already has a gold medal in the 4x100 medley relay from the 2011 Pan American Games.
Donahue's job is now finished in the 4x100 medley relay, as fellow teammate and gold medalist Dana Vollmer will likely now take over in the butterfly leg of the race in the final on Saturday. Despite Donahue not swimming in the final, she will still be eligible to win a medal if in fact the relay team finishes in the top three of the race on Saturday.
If that happens, Donahue would become just the second WKU Olympic athlete to earn a medal at the Summer Olympics. Bernd Herrman is the only former WKU athlete to accomplish that feat to this point, winning a bronze medal with the West Germany 4x400 track and field relay team during the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal. Donahue is also just the second WKU athlete to compete in two separate events during the Olympic Games. Marlon Williams took part in the 5,000-meter and the 10,000-meter run with the U.S. Virgin Islands during the 1992 Games in Barcelona.
Becoming the first WKU swimmer to ever make the U.S. swimming team, Donahue wraps up a successful trip to the 2012 Olympics. Donahue advanced to the finals of the 100-meter butterfly on the opening weekend of the Olympics, setting a personal-best with a time of 57.42 seconds in the semifinals.
"For people to know around the world that WKU was represented in the Olympics is priceless for our program and for the university," WKU head swimming coach Bruce Marchionda said. "We are very proud of all Claire has accomplished and I could not be more pleased with how she performed at the Olympics."
Donahue was one of two former WKU student-athletes participating on Friday, as former WKU track and field star Raigo Toompuu competed in the shot put for his native Estonia, placing 30th overall. Aside from Donahue and Toompuu, former Hilltopper Gavin Smellie is scheduled to run in the 4x100-meter relay with Canada on Friday, August 10. The three former Hilltoppers in the Olympics marks the fifth time in the university's history that three different WKU athletes have participated in the Olympic Games.
Team USA will now swim in the finals of the 4x100 medley relay on Saturday in London, with the event scheduled to begin at 2:07 p.m. (CT).