OMAHA, Neb. — Former Western Kentucky University swimmer and Lenoir City, Tenn., native Claire Donahue turned in a career-best time of 57.57 seconds in the 100-meter butterfly finals at the U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials in Omaha, Neb., Tuesday night, finishing second in the race and punching her ticket to the 2012 Olympics in London.
Donahue's time from lane one was behind only Dana Vollmer, who posted a time of 56.50 seconds to win the event. Donahue beat out Kathleen Hersey, who finished third with a time of 58.16 seconds, and Kelsey Floyd who finished with a fourth-place time of 58.22 seconds. Vollmer and Donahue will now represent the U.S. Olympic squad in London in the 100-meter butterfly.
"It feels unbelievable to make it to the 2012 Olympics," Donahue said. "I have wanted this since I was a little girl. To be able to do this now is a dream come true. When I finished and saw that I was second, I did not even know what to think. At first I didn't believe it. I ripped off my cap and goggles and saw that I placed second, and I immediately had a huge grin from ear-to-ear. I am so thrilled to have this opportunity."
Donahue becomes the first WKU swimmer to ever make the U.S. Olympic swimming team, and becomes just the third WKU swimmer to ever swim in the Olympics. Jevon Atkinson was the last Olympic swimmer from WKU, representing Jamaica in 2004. In all, Donahue becomes the 12th WKU representative in the Olympics, and just the second to ever make it on a U.S. team, with the last being John McNally, who represented the USA in shooting events five times, with the last coming in 2000.
Donahue finished the semi-finals Monday night with a time of 58.53 seconds, shaving nearly a full second off her time in the finals. In the prelims Monday morning, Donahue posted a then-career best time of 57.82, placing second among all swimmers following the prelims.
Donahue, a four-year letterwinner with WKU swimming, currenlty holds five different records at WKU, including two individual records. Donahue also won gold in the 2011 Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico, while also claiming silver honors in the 100-meter butterfly at the 2011 ConocoPhillips National Championships.
"It is so great to be able to represent WKU," Donahue said. "It is so neat to have a community like the WKU community backing you through everything and really showing me unbelievable amounts of support during this entire trials experience. I really feel a sense of pride to be able to go to London representing WKU. Sometimes people don't expect this from a mid-major school. I think that really helps my drive and I know that I will be going to London to make everyone at WKU proud."
The 2012 Olympics will begin on July 27 in London, with the women's 100-meter butterfly to begin on July 28. Donahue is still scheduled to swim in one more event at the 2012 Olympic Trials, with the prelims of the 200-meter butterfly to begin Thursday morning. If Donahue advances from the prelims, she will swim in the semi-finals Thursday night, with the finals set for Friday night.