Hundreds wait for hours to see Olympic swim team

Hundreds wait for hours to see Olympic swim team

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Hundreds of people lined up in the rain on the University of Tennessee campus early Thursday. Hundreds of people lined up in the rain on the University of Tennessee campus early Thursday.
Many fans were there to see East Tennessee native Claire Donahue. Many fans were there to see East Tennessee native Claire Donahue.
Even if many of the fans won't be in London, they will be cheering the athletes on as the USA swim team goes for gold. Even if many of the fans won't be in London, they will be cheering the athletes on as the USA swim team goes for gold.

By STEPHANIE BEECKEN
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Hundreds of people lined up in the rain on the University of Tennessee campus early Thursday for a chance to watch the U.S. Olympic swimming team practice.

It was a first-come, first-seated event and only 1,200 people were allowed in the Allan Jones Intercollegiate Aquatic Center to watch the swimmers practice.

Brian Zalk and his family waited in line for hours to make sure they got a seat. He said it was important for him that his children were there.

"It's all about the experience and to be able to say later, hey, you were there and you got to see the Olympic team," said Zalk. "So for them they won't remember it, but they'll get to see the pictures later in life and enjoy it."

For many of the fans, it was hard to find the words to express the excitement of seeing their favorite Olympic swimmers in person.

"It's crazy, like I'm just speechless about it. It's crazy," said Amanda Brown.

Every fan had their favorite, from gold medalist Michael Phelps to East Tennessee native Claire Donahue.

"My favorite is Michael Phelps because he's really fast and he usually wins," said 9-year-old Katherine Brown.

"I like Missy Franklin because it's her first time and she's 17, and she's really fast so I like her a lot," said 13-year-old Allysa Muraskin.

Many of the fans say watching the athletes is as close to the Olympic games in London as they will get. Thursday's event was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

"Just to be a part of it and have that feeling that Olympic spirit and all that, I think that's great," said Zalk.

Even if many of the fans won't be in London, they will be cheering the athletes on as the USA swim team goes for gold.

The open practice Thursday ended at 10 a.m. According to officials, all other practices during the team's training in Knoxville will be closed.

This is not the first time the U.S. Olympic swimming team trained in Knoxville. They practiced here prior to the 1996 games in Atlanta.

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