Sports

Lydia Jacoby of Seward swims into Olympic finals

After winning her semifinal race Sunday at the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Seward swimmer Lydia Jacoby sounded like a seasoned veteran, not a 17-year-old making her international debut on her sport’s biggest stage.

Jacoby is on her way to the Olympic finals in the 100-meter breaststroke, where she will be one of eight competing for gold, silver and bronze.

She’ll enter the race with the third-fastest time from Sunday’s semifinals — 1 minute, 5.72 seconds.

The finals are Monday at 6:17 p.m. ADT, and if Jacoby is nervous, she isn’t showing it.

“It’s important just to remember at the end of the day it is just another meet,” she told media members in Tokyo after the race. “You just have to remember to keep your head on your shoulders and not get too carried away with the idea that you’re at the Olympics.”

Good advice for an athlete, but don’t tell Alaskans, who are getting carried away by the young swimmer from the Seward Tsunami Swim Club.

In Seward on Sunday evening, a crowd of about 200 watched the race on a giant screen inside the Alaska Railroad terminal as Jacoby came from behind to win the race.

“Of course everyone went nuts when she swam,” said Solomon D’ Amico, one of Jacoby’s club coaches.

In Anchorage, about 150 kids at the long-course state swimming championships at Bartlett High packed the pool deck to watch.

“We finished about 10 minutes before she swam and we put it up on the big screen,” said meet official Jodi McLaughlin, who noted that the Bartlett pool “is where she got to try long-course swimming for the first time.”

Jacoby wasn’t among the leaders in the first 50 meters of her semifinal at the Tokyo Aquatic Center, but she surged into the lead after the turn, using her powerful kick to win by .09 of a second.

Sophie Hansson of Sweden was second in 1:05.81.

[Lydia Jacoby’s journey to the Olympics started with a breakout performance at age 10. The pandemic helped her train even harder.]

“It felt better than yesterday,” Jacoby said.

About 15 hours earlier, Jacoby finished second in her preliminary heat with a sizzling time of 1:05.52 to finish second -- the winner, Tatjana Schoenmaker of South Africa, set an Olympic record in 1:04.82.

Schoenmaker won Sunday’s other semifinal in 1:05.07, edging reigning Olympic gold medalist Lilly King, who placed second in 1:05.40.

Jacoby said she hasn’t been overwhelmed by competing at the Olympics, especially when she thinks back to the pressure-packed U.S. Olympic Trials, where she placed second to King to earn a trip to Japan.

“Honestly I guess technically (the Olympics are) bigger than the Trials, but the Trials was a lot scarier,” she said. “To be honest, this is a lot more comfortable.

“It’s just been great swimming in another competitive environment and, unlike the Trials, having all of Team USA backing me.”

Jacoby was one of five teenagers in her heat, ages 19, 17, 17, 16 and 14. The other semifinal included one teen, a 19-year-old.

She’ll be the second-youngest swimmer in the finals. Russia’s Evgeniia Chikunova is 16.

[Lydia Jacoby is heading to Tokyo as Alaska’s first Olympic swimmer]

Jacoby swims for Seward’s Tsunami Swim Club and plans to graduate next spring with her Seward High classmates. During the pandemic she did much of her training with the Northern Lights Swim Club in Anchorage, where pools reopened before the one in Seward did.

Here are the finalists for Monday’s 100-meter breaststroke at the Tokyo Olympics, including lane assignments and semifinal times:

1. Martina Carraro, Italy -- 1:06.50

2. Yuliya Efimova, Russia -- 1:06.34

3. Lydia Jacoby, USA -- 1:05.72

4. Tatjana Schoenmaker, South Africa -- 1:05.07

5. Lilly King, USA -- 1:05.40

6. Sophie Hansson, Sweden -- 1:05.81

7. Evgeniia Chikunova, Russia -- 1:06.47

8. Mona McSharry, Ireland -- 1:06.59

Sponsored