The U.S. Olympic swimming team has been training at the Allan Jones Aquatic Center on the UT campus for more than a week, but it wasn't until Thursday that they found out how excited East Tennessee was to have them here.
The public and media were invited to watch an hour of practice Thursday morning. The first 1200 people were allowed inside to see the sport's biggest stars.
"When we heard them advertising on tv that they were going to let the first 1200 inside, I was like, are there going to be 1200 people here today? Then we came up in the taxi and saw the lines!" said Debbie Phelps, mother of swimming superstar Michael Phelps.
Many of those fans waited for hours in line, in the rain, for their chance to see the future Olympians. That dedication surprised the sports biggest star.
"We haven't had a crowd like this for a day like this in the last three Olympics for me," said Michael Phelps. It's pretty cool to come out and hear these guys cheering us on."
The crowd chanted "U-S-A" and waved banners and flags while they watched the practice. And while these elite athletes are just a few weeks away from the Olympic games, they are focused on their training, and winning.
"You've just got to keep doing what you've been doing, have fun, enjoying racing the best people in the world," said Ryan Lochte.