Lenoir City grad Claire Donahue ready for World Championships

Donahue excited again to represent U.S.

Dan Fleser knoxnews.com

The really big moments of Claire Donahue’s life continue to happen in a swimming pool.

Small wonder then that the Olympic gold medalist was caught off guard at the U.S. Swimming Championships last week in Indianapolis by a cryptically phrased question about overcoming an appendectomy.

“I was a little confused,” the Lenoir City High School graduate said Friday. “I think I was confused for a second.”

Donahue had a few other considerations at that particular moment in Indianapolis. She was catching her breath after swimming to a second-place finish in the 100-meter butterfly. With a time of 58.32 seconds, she clinched a spot for the World Championships, which begin July 20 in Barcelona, Spain.

In the joyous process, she didn’t suddenly forget undergoing the medical procedure last February. The memory simply wasn’t as relevant to someone who had the thrill of a lifetime at last summer’s London Olympic Games, earning gold as part of the 4x100 medley relay and reaching the 100 fly finals.

“I do think it changed me as a person; it’s very complex,” she said. “The idea of being able to go to such a huge meet. This is what I’ve dreamed of since I was a little girl. When you’re able to do something you’ve dreamed of for so long, it changes your perspective.”

The achievement has her thinking about the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The challenge will be maintaining her motivation and stretching it across the next three years.

For starters, she didn’t change anything about her coaching or training. She still hits the water at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, Ky., under the tutelage of coach Bruce Marchionda and his staff.

She likely will continue the practice of recording her experiences in a personal journal as well. She chronicled last summer in that manner. She’s thumbed through the pages since then and appreciated the long-term benefits of that exercise.

“I’m so glad I did that,” she said. “It’s so cool to be able to go back and relive those moments. I’m reading through it and I remember exactly where I was. I remember exactly how I felt.”

The ripple effect from London also has been evident in her workouts.

“For the first three months, I’d have horribly hard practices and it wouldn’t faze me,” Donahue said. “I was so excited.”

The excitement isn’t likely to last. Therefore, Donahue already is thinking more about what she’s getting out of practice rather than merely getting through the workout.

“It’s something as simple as having a short-term goal, not just looking at the big goal,” she said. “I think that’s one of the biggest things I’ve done.”