Claire Donahue


  • Birthday: January 12, 1989
  • Hometown: Lenois City, TN
  • Now Resides: Western Kentucky University '11
  • Height: 5'7"
  • Coach: Bruce Marchionda


2012 Olympic Gold Medalist (400 Medley Relay)
2014 Pan Pacific Team Member
2011 Pan American Games Champion (100 fly, 400 Medley Relay)
2011 NCAA Runner-Up (100 fly)


Claire Donahue’s rise to swimming fame was slow and gradual. Her 2012 Olympic gold medal was a culmination of years of dedication to the details of technique and a lot of encouragement from coaches, teammates and family. “It was always a process of getting just a little bit faster over time. It was always one step forward, two steps back.”

While some might think that all Olympians are genetic freaks destined for greatness, this 5-foot-7- butterflier had a different experience: “I was never this insanely awesome talented person when I was younger. I was slow. I want participants to know that just because they’re not a 15-year-old all star doesn’t mean they’re not going to do great things.”

Swimmers will leave Claire’s clinics with a renewed sense of purpose and excitement for their swimming goals. “The best part of conducting these clinics is being able to communicate what I know from 23 years of swimming, to inspire participants and to get others excited about the sport!”

As part of the original crew of Fitter and Faster clinicians, she has taught over 100 clinics across the nation – and they never get old! “I have the ability to actually step into their shoes and cue how they should feel in the water. It’s not just the drills they need to learn – they need to know how they’re supposed to feel.” (Blog post from Claire: Preparing to Race at Nationals)

According to Claire, the keys to swimming success lie in these three things: paying attention to the details, becoming a student of the sport, and enjoying what you’re doing. The first thing Claire tells swimmers at her clinics is to go home and write down all the drills they learned. “Becoming a student of the sport is incredibly valuable. When you start taking the sport seriously and want to learn, that’s when you’ll start getting better. There’s so much more than just what you do in practice. You can stretch before practice, improve your nutrition or work on recovery. I’m still learning so much now as a coach!”

Before each clinic, Claire studies the curriculum goals in order to break down each skill into digestible parts. “The biggest thing I look at is breaking down strokes into their component parts for participants to understand each skill better. I want these swimmers to share with their teams and talk with their coach about what they learned to continue their growth.” Claire covers each stroke and racing skill, depending on the goals of the clinic host.

As a butterfly specialist, Claire emphasizes power with starts and turns as well as breaking down this difficult stroke in simple terms. “Every part of the body should be engaged. I talk about where your toes should point, how your hips should move, where your knees should be positioned and how to activate your core.”  Your swimmer may just leave one of her clinics loving butterfly!

At the end of the day, Claire enjoys being able to look each participant in the eye, give individual feedback and have conversation with the families. Seeing their excitement for the sport is what these clinics are all about! She also encourages swimmers to know that even when they seem to be stuck in a rut, they can still work toward their goals:

“There were two years in high school where I never got a best time. It’s hard to get through that – you don’t want to go to practice. But what got me through were my teammates, who were like family, and working on subtle details of my strokes and celebrating victories in practice. You have to take one day at a time. People give up easily, and those goals are just on the edge of the horizon. Sometimes it takes longer than you want, but that’s all a part of the process. Once I figured that out, those ups and downs were so much easier to handle!”

Be prepared to take your swimming to the next level by attending Claire’s next clinic near you!

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Chloe Sutton