London’s Calling: Tyler McGill and Claire Donahue

PHOENIX, Arizona, July 12. BEFORE departing this weekend for Paris, Team USA is wrapping up their Knoxville training camp at the Allan Jones Aquatic Center. With last night's announcement of Team USA's captains fresh on everyone's minds, it's the perfect time to take a look at two Olympic newbies competing next to swimming's well-respected veterans. Maybe four-time Olympian and Team USA Captain Jason Lezak will have some advice to give.

Tyler McGill and Claire Donahue are two rookie Olympians heading to London to compete in the 100 meter butterfly. At Trials, both snagged second place in their respective events behind Olympic gold medalists.

Tyler McGill:

Due to NBC rights holder restrictions, the following video interview is only viewable until 7/27/2012:

24-year-old Tyler McGill approached the Olympic Trials with a single goal in mind: to make it to London. Even racing next to Phelps in the finals of the 100 butterfly didn't phase the Auburn graduate.

“I came here for a purpose, it didn't matter who was next to me or where I was in the race,” said McGill. “The goal was London.”

This focused mentality paid off for McGill, who cinched his ticket to London by placing second in the 100 butterfly on the seventh night of Trials.

Although he currently represents the New York Athletic Club, Auburn is McGill's alma mater. He has trained under head coach Brett Hawke since 2007. During that time, he contributed to the team's 2009 NCAA titles in the 4×100 freestyle and 4×100 medley relays. He earned an individual silver in the 100 butterfly at Championships that year, and finished fifth in the 200 butterfly.

He placed second in the 100 butterfly at both the 2009 and 2010 US National Championships. The following year, at the 2011 World Championships in Shanghai, he took home bronze in his now-signature event.

After McGill placed fourth in 100 butterfly at the 2008 Trials, 2012 became the year to represent the Stars and Stripes on the Olympic stage.

“I had to make the decision this morning to be an Olympian,” McGill told the press. “I had to let my body take over.”

His second-place finish came behind Phelps, and his time of 51.32 ranks top three in the world for this year. Could this put him in contention for a medal in London? Don't count McGill out.

“There were a lot of guys that were trying to go to London. But there is a difference between trying and making that decision,” a determined McGill told reporters post-race.

Claire Donahue:

Due to NBC rights holder restrictions, the following video interview is only viewable until 7/27/2012:

Western Kentucky University has a lot to be proud of in Claire Donahue. She is the first WKU swimmer to represent the United States at the Olympic Games.

“It is so great to be able to represent WKU,” Donahue said in a press release from her alma mater. “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.”

From Lenoir City, Tenn., Donahue developed her swimming with the Blount Area Swim Team. She attended Lenoir City High, where she swam under coach Zack Donahue.

Donahue's collegiate career was marked by another first. In her junior year, she was the first female swimmer in WKU history to final at the NCAA Championships, placing fourth in the 100 butterfly.

The following year, at the 2011 NCAA Championships, she increased her placing by two, taking home silver in the 100 butterfly. Donahue finished her collegiate career in the WKU record books: she set new marks in the 100 and 200 butterfly.

Outside of college, Donahue placed second in the 100 butterfly at the 2011 National Championships. But her highest placing was at the Pan Pacific Games that same year, when she won gold in the 100 butterfly and women's 400 medley relay.

However, the real news came from her breathtaking 50 split in her 100 butterfly prelims swim at Trials. She touched ahead of the American record at the turn.

“Usually in the 50 I'm pretty far ahead, that's kind of my style,” Donahue said after the swim.

Donahue swam her finals race from the outside Lane 1, clocking a career-best 57.57, and placing second behind 2004 gold medalist Dana Vollmer. This is quite the accomplishment, considering she topped 2008 silver medalist Christine Magnuson, who also swam in her heat.

“When I saw that number two, I was just so excited,” a beaming Donahue told reporters after the race.

Written and posted by Shoshanna Rutemiller

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