Local Olympians, Phelps take to UT waters

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- The world's best swim team opened up practice Thursday morning on the University of Tennessee campus.

And did so to the delight of roughly 1,300 fans.

"I guess I woke up at 6:30 and started looking at my phone and there were tweets, from like two hours before," 16-time Olympic medalist Michael Phelps said.

"People were outside at 4:30 or coming at 4:30 and waiting outside to support us. So we haven't had a crowd like this for a day like this in the last three Olympics for me. It was pretty cool to come out and here them cheering us on," Phelps continued.

Ryan Lochte, another highly successful American swimmer, echoed the same thoughts.

"I mean I've been in the 2004 Olympics and 2008 Olympics and every time we had a media day, there were only like 10 or 15 fans," the former Florida Gator All-American said.

"It just goes to show how much bigger the sport has evolved."

While Phelps and Lochte grab many of the headlines, not everyone in the stands was on hand to see the American superstars.

The 2012 Olympic swim team also features two East Tennessee swimmers. Davis Tarwater, a Knoxville native, will swim on the 4x200 meter freestyle relay team, and Claire Donahue is a Lenoir City native.

Donahue enjoyed the special attention she received Thursday from the local media.

"My coach said, 'Claire, that was the best set you've ever had.' I thought that was funny. I was having fun. I loved everyone up there and the cameras were a lot of fun," Donahue said after practice.

"I'm not use to getting videotaped by five different people during practice, but I liked it."

Donahue will swim the 100-meter butterfly at the London Games.

Donahue and Tarwater both said they are enjoying the Olympic experience and getting to train back home, but added that it's important to stay focused on what matters most: Olympic gold.

"I'm really not even fully digesting it, Tarwater said. "I'm really trying to calm myself down and come to the pool everyday and get ready for London cause that's what I'm really here to do and I'm really fired up to do that."

The Olympians will train again at UT's Allan Jones Intercollegiate Aquatic Center on Friday. On Saturday, the team will depart for France, then it's off to London.

The Olympic Games begin July 27.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- The U.S. Olympic Swimming Team is opening their practice to the community Thursday morning on the University of Tennessee campus.

From 8 a.m. to 9 a.m., the Team is inviting people to come out and see the team practice at the Allan Jones Intercollegiate Aquatic Center and from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. at the outdoor pool behind the Student Aquatic Center.

Only 1,200 people will be allowed inside, and some lined up early Thursday morning to get a seat.

All other practices in Knoxville will remain closed to the public.

The Team has been practicing on UT campus all week because its one of the few schools in the nation with two full-sized indoor pools and the Olympic-sized pool at the Student Aquatic Center.

Free parking is available in the nearby G7 parking garage on campus on the corner of Volunteer Blvd and Andy Holt Ave.

Fans will be allowed to take pictures, but no flash photography or tripods.

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