Anchorage airport crowd cheers return of Seward swimmer Lydia Jacoby, Alaska’s newest Olympian

Alaska’s newest Olympian was greeted by a cheering, flag-waving crowd Wednesday night at the Anchorage airport.

Lydia Jacoby, a 17-year-old from Seward who last week became Alaska’s first Olympic swimmer, received a hero’s welcome from a crowd of about 80.

“It’s crazy how much support I’m getting from Alaska,” she said. “I didn’t realize there’d be so many people.”

[Lydia Jacoby, a 17-year-old swimmer from Seward, is headed to the Summer Olympics]

About 40 Alaskans were on hand last Tuesday in Omaha, Nebraska, when Jacoby qualified for the U.S. Olympic swim team by swimming the second-fastest time in the world this season in the women’s 100-meter breaststroke finals. She finished second in the race to clinch a trip to the upcoming Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

The welcome party at the airport included numerous young swimmers, including a few who chanted, “Let’s go, Lydia, let’s go!” as they waited for her to arrive. Ten-year-old Nora Fawcett held up a large “Yay, Lydia!” sign that she later gave to Jacoby.

Wearing a USA Swimming stars-and-stripes backpack, Jacoby hugged friends, posed for photos and signed autographs.

She received the backpack at the start of the Trials in Omaha, she said, and then collected more gear once she qualified for the Olympic team. More swag awaits in Tokyo, including the Team USA uniform she’ll wear July 23 for the opening ceremony.

Jacoby’s time in Alaska will be brief. She leaves early Sunday for a team swim camp in Hawaii, and from there she and the rest of the team will fly to Japan.