Lydia Jacoby Becomes First Alaskan Swimmer To Win Olympic Gold, Fans In Hometown Go Wild
An Alaska native, 17-year-old Lydia Jacoby made history Monday night in Tokyo winning an Olympic gold medal for the U.S. in the women’s 100-meter breaststroke.
Jacoby was crowned winner for an impeccable racing time finishing at 1.04.95, beating Tatjana Schoenmaker of South Africa by just a quarter of a second over her time, and teammate Lily King, who took bronze. Jacoby looked at the scoreboard in disbelief as her opponent Schoemaker swam over to hug her.
“I was definitely racing for a medal. I knew I had it in me,” said Jacoby in an interview after her victory. “I wasn’t really expecting a gold medal, so when I looked up and saw the scoreboard it was insane.”
Jacoby was the first swimmer from the northernmost state to make the U.S. Olympic swim team. She hails from Seward, a small town with a population of 2,733. Jacoby is only the 10th Olympian in history to come from the state, citing the victory was “huge” for herself and her home state.
“A lot of big-name swimmers come from big, powerhouse clubs,” said Jacoby. “Me coming from a small club, in a state with such a small population, really shows everyone that you can do it no matter where you’re from.”
The official Twitter account of the Tokyo Olympics showed the historic moment for Alaska unfold live in her hometown with her family, classmates and members of the community in a frenzy over her win.
— #TokyoOlympics (@NBCOlympics) July 27, 2021
“So many people have seen Lydia grow up from a small girl, having been supported through the Tsunami Swim Club. I can’t say anything else that it was just one of the best days in Seward history, to be able to watch her achieve such something so amazing,” Jacoby’s mother, Terry Jacoby, said in an interview.
Jacoby comes from a maritime community. Both her parents are licensed boat captains. The Olympian has said she first began competing competitively in the sport at six years old on a local team as an extracurricular activity to partake in with friends.
At the age of 12, Jacoby went on to set her first state record, which is when she realized it was something that she wanted to do.
“I had a big group of friends who did it. When I got a little older, I started winning, and I liked it and wanted to keep doing it, and here I am,” she said.
Jacoby’s Olympic status won’t stop her from being a normal college student – she is expected to be a Texas Longhorn at the University of Texas for the class of 2026, joining the swim team in the fall of 2022.