US Olympic Swim Team practices in Knoxville - WSMV News 4

US Olympic Swim Team practices in Knoxville

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U.S. Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte answers media questions Thursday at the Allan Jones Intercollegiate Aquatic Center in Knoxville. U.S. Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte answers media questions Thursday at the Allan Jones Intercollegiate Aquatic Center in Knoxville.

KNOXVILLE, TN (WRCB) -- More than 2,000 fans flooded the University of Tennessee campus Thursday morning to welcome the U.S. Olympic Swimming Team to East Tennessee.

Team USA held one-hour open practice and media session at UT's Allan Jones Intercollegiate Aquatic Center in what was one of its final workouts before leaving for the upcoming London Games.

All the big names were in the water, including Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte and 17-year-old sensation Missy Franklin.

"We saw it on Channel 3's Twitter last week and tried to keep it a secret so no one else would hear about it, but obviously it looks like everybody did," said Chattanooga's Sarah Beth Moore, who made the early morning trip with her family and a friend. "We can't go to London to watch the games, so this was the next best thing."

A capacity crowd in the upper-deck of the indoor facility cheered and chanted to show their support. And while the turnout was an eye-opener for the Olympic rookies, even some of the veterans were truly blown away by outpouring of support.

"This was my first time ever having something like this at a practice, but I guess it gave me a little motivational boost to go even faster," Lochte said. "I've been to the 2004 Olympics and 2008 Olympics, and every time we had a media day there were like 15 fans.

"This is just amazing. It shows how much bigger the sport has become since 2004."

Many athletes stayed after their workouts to sign autographs and take pictures with fans, drawn in by the region's trademark southern hospitality.

"Everyone is so nice," Franklin said with a wide smile. "They said there are like 2,000 people here today, which is absolutely incredible to have that kind of support. Everywhere we've gone we're getting 'Good lucks!' and congratulations from everyone we meet when we're walking down the street.

"To have what seems like the whole town here and behind us, it's the best."

The U.S. Olympic Swimming Team previously trained in Knoxville prior to the 1996 Games in Atlanta. This is the first time the Olympic Team has been able to use the four-year-old Allan Jones Intercollegiate Aquatic Center.

Tennessee is one of the few schools in the country to have two full-sized indoor pools between Allan Jones and the team's former competition venue next door, the Student Aquatic Center. The outdoor pool behind the Student Aquatic Center is also Olympic sized.

"The facilities here are amazing," Phelps said. "The water was a little cold, but we warmed it up in a hurry. Especially with all the support we had here. I checked my phone at 6 a.m. and saw people tweeting from two hours before about how they were waiting in line to see us.

"We haven't had a crowd like this for a day like this in the last three Olympics I've been to."

Channel 3 Sports Director Keith Cawley will be in Knoxville for the event. Look for his coverage almost immediately on as well as full reports on Eyewitness News at 5:00 and 6:00.

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