Lydia Jacoby returns home to a parade, talks about her Olympic experience

Lydia Jacoby of the United States waves after winning the final of the women's 100-meter...
Lydia Jacoby of the United States waves after winning the final of the women's 100-meter breaststroke at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Tuesday, July 27, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)(Matthias Schrader | AP)
Published: Aug. 5, 2021 at 4:50 PM AKDT|Updated: Aug. 6, 2021 at 9:53 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - In a tremendous show of hometown pride, a parade was held in downtown Seward on Thursday before swimmer Lydia Jacoby got onto a Kenai Fjords Tours boat, where she answered questions about her Tokyo Olympics experience.

Hundreds of people lined the streets to welcome Jacoby home. Even though she has been home for a couple of days now, this was the first time that the whole town got the chance to cheer for her in person.

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Jacoby left the state as the first Alaskan to make the U.S. Olympic swim team. Now she returns as not only that, but a gold medalist in the women’s 100-meter breaststroke and a silver medalist in the women’s medley relay, in which she swam the breaststroke leg.

So what is the first thing that one does when upon returning home after winning a gold and silver medal? Jacoby’s answer isn’t exactly one people might would expect.

“Started unpacking seeing a couple of my friends and went up Mount Marathon yesterday just kind of settling back into a routine.” Jacoby said.

Nothing says elite athlete and Seward native like climbing Mount Marathon with your friends after returning from a lengthy trip abroad. Jacoby was gone for two weeks at the Olympic Trials. Then she came back to Alaska for two days before heading to Hawaii for the Olympic training camp, then straight to Tokyo for the Olympic Games.

In the past, Jacoby has said that she gets very nervous on race days, at some points not even able to eat because it would make her sick. The Olympics was no different, but she wasn’t nervous for the race that people might think.

“I was definitely nervous going into prelims but it was fine, it was prelims — I knew I had a really good shot at making semis, so I wasn’t too concerned about it,” she said. “Going into semis though I made myself so nervous I was almost sick and I didn’t perform well during semis, so trying to take that and channel that into more positive energy, so that was probably the least nervous I have ever been for a big race.”

The big race spoke of was the women’s 100-meter breaststroke final. She called it the biggest race of her life, for more than one reason. Not only did she accomplish a goal that she had set for herself, but winning a gold medal is a life-changing achievement.

Jacoby won the race with a time of 1 minute, 4.95 seconds, beating Olympic gold medalist, defending champion and fellow U.S. swim teammate Lilly King.

“It has definitely been very different, sometimes overwhelming, but I feel like I am managing it pretty well, you know,” Jacoby said. “As time goes on it will calm down a little bit, and yeah, I have all my usual group of friends and I can just expand from there.”

The first 24 hours after the big race were a blur, Jacoby said, but one of the first things she saw when she got out of the pool was video of the watch party in Seward and her parents at a separate watch party reacting to the life-changing moment.

“That has been a huge boost for her and for all of us, just to see that level of excitement and enthusiasm. It is a neat thing, growing up in a small town and having people behind you like that, and of course Alaska is the biggest small town in the world” said Lydia’s dad Richard Jacoby.

The support quickly grew like wildfire from her hometown to Hollywood, including swimming legends.

“It was just crazy all the support I was getting from the people back home that I have known my whole life, then other people like Jennifer Garner and Reese Witherspoon reposted me on their stories and Michael Phelps, so it was just funny to see,” Jacoby said. “Everything just blew up so it was just really crazy.”

One-on-one with gold medalist Lydia Jacoby

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After the craziness of the gold medal celebration started to wear down, she was told that she would be swimming in the first ever mixed medley relay and the women’s medley relay. That’s something that she had never done in an international competition before.

Jacoby said that while she was at the Olympic training camp in Hawaii, the coaches helped her learn how to do the transitions. It was in the mixed medley relay where she had another moment that went viral. Her goggles slipped down her face after she dove into the pool, but she managed to still swim the second fastest time of her life. Despite the fast time, though, team USA didn’t make the medal stand and took fifth place.

One would think that winning a gold medal would be at the top of the list of favorite Olympic moments for Jacoby, but just like she surprised the world with her win, she had a surprising answer.

“Honestly the relay was probably my favorite moment of the Olympics, just swimming it with the incredible group of women and to miss gold by 0.13 (seconds), just to know that we were swimming against the best in the world,” Jacoby said.

Jacoby went on to talk about the Olympic Village and the whole time she had a smile on her face. She said that just seeing all of the different country’s athletes and flags everywhere was awe-inspiring. She also said that there was every type of food that one could imagine and once again. Her favorite? Dim sum.

High school starts back up for Jacoby in the coming weeks. As far as swimming goes she said she is going to take a little break and then start to refocus on some meets in the Lower 48. She also has her eyes on the World Championship of Swimming that will take place in December.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated with additional information.

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