LONDON — Former Western Kentucky University swimmer Claire Donahue is one step away from becoming just the second WKU athlete to win a medal at the Summer Olympics after she recorded a personal-best time of 57.42 seconds in the semifinals of the 100-meter butterfly on Saturday at the 2012 Olympics in London.
With the top eight swimmers advancing, Donahue's mark was good for the fifth-best time in the semifinals, seeding her fifth for Sunday's final of the event. Fellow USA swimmer Dana Vollmer finished her semifinal with the best overall time, turning in a time of 56.36 seconds after a time of 56.25 seconds in the preliminary heats. Donahue's time in the semifinals blew away her mark from the preliminary heats, as she recorded a time of 58.06 seconds to qualify for the semifinals Saturday morning.
"It felt awesome," Donahue said. "When I went into the race, I was confident, way more than I was in prelims, and I think that was a big difference. And just the race itself, I felt a lot better. I worked on a few things in warm-up to make sure I get it down. And it worked out in semifinals, so I’m really excited."
Donahue swam in lane six of the second heat in the semifinals - a heat that produced six of the eight participants that qualified for Sunday's final. Donahue's time of 57.42 was behind only three others in the second heat, including Jeanette Ottesen Gray from Denmark, who turned in a time of 57.25 seconds and placed third overall in the semifinals.
Donahue's time Saturday afternoon surpassed her previous personal-best time of 57.57 seconds, which she recorded in the finals of the 100-meter butterfly at the 2012 Olympic Trials in Omaha, Neb., in June. That time placed her second in the event and punched her ticket to the 2012 Olympics.
Donahue, a former WKU swimming standout, will be looking to become the first WKU Olympic athlete to medal since Berd Herrman accomplished the feat back in 1976 at the Montreal Games. Herrman ran on the 4x100 relay team with West Germany, winning a bronze medal in the event and becoming the first and only WKU athlete to win a medal at the Summer Olympics. Donahue is also just the third WKU Olympic swimmer, and is the first WKU athlete to ever swim for the United States.
Donahue will now swim in the final of the 100-meter butterfly, which is scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m. (CT) on Sunday at the Aquatics Centre in London. The event will consist of eight finalists, with the top three finishers in the event winning a medal.