Lydia Jacoby’s bid for another Olympic medal slips away, and so do her goggles

A gold medal one day, a goggle malfunction the next.

Seward swimmer Lydia Jacoby’s bid for another medal at the Tokyo Olympics came up short Friday night when the United States placed fifth in the 400-meter mixed medley relay, a new Olympic event.

Jacoby, the 17-year-old who won the gold medal in the women’s 100-meter breaststroke on Monday, swam the breaststroke leg for the United States -- the second of four legs.

As soon as she dove into the pool, her goggles came off and slipped down her face, to her mouth.

Jacoby swam the entire 100 meters that way, and still clocked a solid time of 1 minute, 5.09 seconds. She posted a 1:04.95 in her gold-medal swim.

“I’ve never really had that happen before,” she told reporters after the race, “so it’s out of my control at that point once I was in the water, so I just swam as best I could with what was happening at the moment.”

Great Britain won the race in a world-record 3:37.58. China took the silver in 3:38.86 and Australia won bronze in 3:38.95.


The United States lagged behind in 3:40.58 -- 3.0 seconds behind the winners and 1.63 seconds behind the bronze medalists.

Mixed medley relay teams consist of two men and two women who swim a combined four legs -- backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly, freestyle, in that order. Who swims which stroke is up to each country, making it a race about strategy as well as speed.

The Americans chose to bookend their team with men -- Ryan Murphy in the backstroke, Caeleb Dressel in the freestyle.

Murphy, who won silver in the 200-meter backstroke and bronze in the 100-meter backstroke, set the pace on the first leg to give the United States an early lead.

Then came Jacoby, whose goggles slipped off immediately.

She was the only woman who swam the breaststroke -- the stroke which generally has the biggest gap between men’s times and women’s times. She posted the leg’s sixth-fastest time, and when she touched off to Torri Huske for the butterfly, the United States was in sixth place.

“I’m really proud of Lydia and how she handled those circumstances,” Murphy told reporters after the race. “Anyone who has swam with their goggles in their mouth, like she did -- she did fantastic there.”

The United States lost more ground in the butterfly. Huske, who placed fourth in the women’s 100-meter butterfly, swam the slowest time of the leg and was in last place when she touched off to Dressel.

Dressel -- who had already won three gold medals (100-meter free, 100-meter butterfly, 400-meter men’s free relay) made up enough time to pull the Americans into fifth place, but a medal was never within his reach.

Correction: An early version of this story incorrectly said Jacoby would not race again. She was added to the women’s medley relay team Saturday night and won a silver medal.

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.