Clair Donahue looks at clockClaire Donahue is a Team USA swimmer and won a gold medal in the 4x200m freestyle relay at the London 2012 Olympic Games.

 Claire Donahue
 President Obama and Vice President Biden

A Part of History

September 14, 2012

Since I made the U.S. Olympic Team, I have been given so many new and exciting opportunities. For the first time since the Olympic Games I got to see good friends again, my teammates. As soon as I saw them in D.C. I was glowing. I was so excited to see everyone. We were giving hugs and embracing like we hadn’t seen each other in years. However, when we were all back together, it felt like we never left. We were cracking jokes, laughing hysterically, and catching up. Talking about all the things we’ve been doing, conversing about all the fun we are having, and, of course, showing off our Olympic rings tattoos. We knew we just had a short trip to reunite, so we took advantage of every second of quality time together, enjoying it all.

There was one thing we got to do that reminded me a lot of the Olympic Games, being more than just yourself or a swim team. You got to be a part of a much bigger group – Team USA. When we were in London one of my favorite parts was being more than just myself and being able to meet so many different athletes from all over the world. Here I got that same feel with the other U.S. athletes. We got to know them and they are just as much fun. At one point I got to sit on the bus with the Paralympic swimmers and they were cracking me up the entire time. Those sort of experience are what make life so much fun. This trip was one of many experiences. You get the small moments and the big moments all at once.

 Claire Donahue
 On the South Lawn

I loved being able to see all my teammates, but it made it so much sweeter being able to share so many of these moments and experiences together with such an amazing group of people. The Olympic Trials and London were obviously huge moments, but so was meeting the President of the United States. The White House was amazing. I’ve never been through Washington before, so even the drive over was incredible, being able to pass by the Washington Monument. When we got to the White House I was in shock. I couldn’t believe I was actually there. The entire estates were gorgeous, like a dream. The entire day was a dream. Hearing Michelle and Barack Obama speak seemed very surreal. To have the President of the United States speak to you is an incredible feeling. They seemed so real, making jokes and having a good time. At the end we even got the chance to meet them. I am very excited to say I got a hug from both the President and First Lady. Then being able to tour the White House was so neat. It feels like you’re a part of that history. Another one of those experiences of a lifetime.

Whirlwind Continues

September 13, 2012

The past two months for me have been quite the whirlwind. From making my first Olympic team in June to now, I’ve been able to do so many new and amazing things. I’ve gone overseas for the first time, gone to France and London, met amazing people, and I got to compete in the Olympic Games. When I came back to the States, I got to talk to schools, be honored at baseball games and NASCAR, and have interviews and photo shoots. I’ve been able to do all these amazing things and now I can add meeting the President of the United States to my list. How unbelievable is that?

Claire Donahue's Jacket

After the Olympics were over, I came home and I thought all the excitement was going to die down. I was definitely wrong. As soon as I got back, I was asked to do dozens of different things -- like going to schools, throwing the first pitch at baseball games, watch a NASCAR race in Bristol, speak to churches, be in parades, and have a pool named after me. These were things I never thought I’d get the chance to do, so I did all of it. It definitely kept me busy, but I’ve been loving every bit of it. It’s priceless being able to enjoy myself, meeting so many great people, and being able to see the excitement on kids' faces because they got to meet an Olympian.

Now I get to be one of those kids -- all excited -- because I get to reunite with my teammates from London. One of the things I love about swim teams is that you become so close, it’s like a family. The month the U.S. swim team was together we created that. I can’t wait to see my swim family! Since we went our separate ways after London, I’ve spoken with some, but I haven’t seen any of them since. Yet. Since I found out about this trip, the excitement has grown, and now it’s so close. It felt so weird after London not having everyone around to talk to, hang out with, or train together. You’ve created these bonds with these people, so being able to see them after being apart is like the excitement at Christmas. I keep imagining the thrill it will be when we arrive in D.C.

On top of seeing all my teammates, I get to have another experience of a lifetime with them. We get to visit the White House and meet the President. How cool is that? I feel so lucky and so honored to be able to hear him speak. I can’t imagine what that might be like, shaking the hand of a legend and hearing what he has to say. A man so good with words and that has done and seen so much. Just thinking about it leaves me speechless. To top all of that off, we get to tour the White House. Such a historic place. All the incredible people that have been there.

This new opportunity is another one of those many recent experiences I will never forget.