Raised in Seward, Lydia Jacoby was just 17 years old when she made history at the 2021 Olympic Games in Tokyo. Jacoby became the first Alaska-born swimmer to earn a medal at the Olympics when she won gold in the 100-meter breaststroke. She went on to win a silver medal as part of a 4×100-meter medley relay. Alaska magazine caught up with Jacoby while she was home in December. ~ as told to and edited by Alexander Deedy.
You’ve been so busy recently. When you’re back home in Seward what do you do to relax?
It’s fun to travel. It’s fun to be busy, but it’s always nice to get back to where you’re from. It’s been nice these last few days because a lot of my friends are also home from college right now. So, just seeing friends. We went on some hikes, went to go get coffee, and just kinda hung out. It’s been great.
You improved a lot leading up to the Olympics. You came in second at the U.S. trials in the summer and were an underdog going into the final heat at the Olympics. What do you think enabled you to come from behind and win gold?
I’ve been training really hard. The Olympics was postponed a year and honestly for me, it really showed with all the other teenagers on the team, that really gave an extra year to all the younger people to develop and get that strength we needed to make the team. Then just those couple weeks between trials and the games where we were at training camp with the whole Olympic swim team—it’s just really motivating. I think I really grew a lot, as a person and athlete, training with all those other amazing athletes and being in that environment. I think that’s kind of what gave me that little boost between trials and the games.
What was it like returning home after you won gold?
It was so cool. It was amazing to see all the support around the state, especially in my hometown. They had a parade, and I couldn’t really leave my house at all without talking to everyone I saw. So yeah, it’s different for sure.
You went from such a big stage in Tokyo back to competing in regional high school swim meets in Alaska and going on to win the state competition. How did you think about that transition back to swimming with your high school teammates and staying focused?
It’s been really nice. It was really nice after the games to kind of go back and practice with my peer group, my high school friends, and just keep the mood light. To be able to train, but also just having fun was important.
I’m sure you’re always dedicated to training, rest, nutrition, etc. When you take time to sit back and relax, what does that look like for you?
It’s funny, this has kind of been something that I’ve been noticing and actively accepting—that I really don’t give myself breaks. Trying to do that is really important both mentally and physically. So, I’m hoping to just really relax, recuperate, and spend some time with family over Christmas before I get back on the grind for [USA Swimming’s International Team Trials] in April.
What do you do for fun in Seward that you would recommend people check out when they’re in town?
I haven’t done this for a long time, unfortunately I just haven’t had time, but the cruises out into the bay are always amazing. My parents worked for Kenai Fjords Tours for a long time, so I kind of grew up out there on those boats. That’s a must do. I also personally love going to Resurrect Art Coffee House and gallery. It’s my favorite. You can find me there like every day or maybe twice a day.
What’s next for you? What does the next five years look like?
Five years. I was thinking about months. [laughs] If we talk about three years, I guess everything I’ll be doing is kind of leading up to the Paris Olympics and Olympic trials, trying to get on that team again. But yeah, in the fall I’ll be heading off to [University of] Texas.
What are you studying?
Fashion apparel. I also think I want to take some classes in business.
You’re focused on swimming of course; do you have aspirations for another career with fashion and business?
Up until like sophomore year, middle of sophomore year, I didn’t even know if I wanted to swim in college. I just wanted to be done after high school. It’s a big commitment. Obviously, that’s changed now. I do love it and I’m gonna keep going for a while, but I’ve always loved clothes and fashion so I thought it would be a really cool thing to be able to turn into a career.
What is it that you love about swimming? What changed your mind and made you want to keep pursuing the sport?
I’d say the people. It’s a really cool community. It always has been, but especially now that I’m a member of the national team and I’m on the international stage, you meet so many people and make connections that’ll really last you your whole life. It’s definitely special.