One of the best moments of the Tokyo Olympics happened in Seward

One of the most riveting scenes so far from the Tokyo Olympics is straight out of Seward.

Video of Seward High students watching classmate Lydia Jacoby swim to Olympic gold at a Monday night watch party is about 30 seconds of high-cardio, unrestrained exuberance.

Channel 2 sportscaster Austin Sjong shot the video, which has been viewed millions of times worldwide. NBC made masterful use of it, combining it with footage of Jacoby’s race so you can watch a synchronized version of Jacoby winning and her classmates losing their minds all at once.

Jacoby, 17, was the queen of social media Monday night and even into Tuesday.

Her scintillating, come-from-behind upset victory in the women’s 100-meter breaststroke touched a chord throughout the nation, if not the world. Video of her race and Seward’s reaction had nearly 7 million views on Facebook, and her irresistible origin story — small-town girl who never trained in an Olympic-sized pool — turned Alaska’s first Olympic swimmer into the darling of Tokyo.

Everyone from politicians ...


... to Super Bowl champions ...

... to gambling experts ...

... to Olympic curlers tweeted their reactions.

In Orlando, Leslie Jacoby — Lydia’s mom — got some love too.

She and husband Rich were invited by NBC and the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee to Orlando, Florida, for a gathering of Olympic parents and family members. Instead of watching the big screen, Leslie held a tablet in front of her face and filmed the whole thing, and social media swooned.

As for Lydia, her Instagram account took off like Usain Bolt.

Before the race, she had 7,085 followers. Less than 24 hours later, she had more than 44,000.

Jacoby didn’t immediately post anything on Instagram, but she delighted all of her new fans (and the longtime fans who knew her back in the old days) with a thank-you video posted by U.S. Swimming (who referred to Jacoby as “the queen”).

“Hi everyone this is Lydia Jacoby. I just wanted to say thank you so much for all your support. I’m just having a chance to catch up on some of my messages and it’s crazy how much support that I’m getting from everyone so I just wanted to say thank you and I couldn’t have done this without you guys. So. Yeah. Go USA!”

Part of the buzz is that Jacoby is something of a renaissance girl.

She played stand-up bass in a string band of young musicians who spent summers performing at numerous folk festivals until a couple of members went off to college. She’s into theater, she sings, she writes for the Seward High school newspaper and she had a summer internship last summer with the Seward Journal (”Resurrection Art opens a delicious new addition,” headlined one of her stories).

Lydia-mania is likely to continue, because there’s a good chance she will swim on the U.S. women’s 400-meter medley relay team later this week. Prelims are Friday at 4:10 a.m. ADT and finals are at 6:15 p.m. Sunday.

It seems like it would be impossible to recreate the crazy scene that unfolded Monday at the Alaska Railroad terminal. But if Jacoby swims again and Seward gathers to watch, you get the feeling lightning might strike twice.

Beth Bragg

Beth Bragg wrote about sports and other topics for the ADN for more than 35 years, much of it as sports editor. She retired in October 2021. She's contributing coverage of Alaskans involved in the 2022 Winter Olympics.