Alaska neighbours of Olympic gold swimmer fooled tourists into believing she trains with sea lions

‘They can’t believe our teeny-weeny town has a pool,’ says resident and business owner in Seward, Alaska, hometown of Olympic champion swimmer Lydia Jacoby

Clara Hill
Thursday 29 July 2021 18:47
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Lydia Jacoby’s Alaska hometown erupts in celebration after swimmer wins gold

Neighbours of Tokyo Olympics gold medal-winning swimmer Lydia Jacoby joked to tourists that she trained alongside sea lions in her home state of Alaska.

The 100 metre breaststroke champion was raised in the small town of Seward but before, Jacoby was already a local celebrity with local businesses hosting supportive messages in their windows. These “Go Lydia” signs prompted the tourists coming to the town from cruise ships to ask all sorts of questions about her, including her she trained.

“They can’t believe our teeny-weeny town has a pool,” Judy Odhner, a local cafe owner, told NBC News. “They’d just as easily believe Lydia trains every day out there with the whales and sea lions. So we went with it. I mean, Lydia’s a real Alaska girl, so it’s believable.”

Before becoming the first person from Alaska to win a gold medal, she had already made history being the first Alaskan to qualify to represent Team USA in swimming.

Jacoby told NBC News about her ambition and shock about securing the top spot on the podium.

“I was definitely racing for a medal. I knew I had it in me,” she told NBC News following her win on 27 July. “I wasn’t really expecting a gold medal, so when I looked up and saw the scoreboard, it was insane.”

The Seward’s town leaders also opened up about the need to upgrade the local swim facilities as the nearest suitable pool is 120 miles away at Barlett High School.

“We’ve scheduled a work session tomorrow and I expect the subject of a new pool is going to come up. Lydia had to leave town to train in an Olympic-size pool. So absolutely there is renewed interest in this.” Vice Mayor Tony Baclaan told the same outlet.

Currently, the Seward Tsunami Swim Club is crowd funding for a new pool. After her victory in Tokyo, footage emerged of this swim club erupting in celebration for their hometown hero.

At the time of the postponement, Jacoby found it important to keep it in perspective with what the rest of the world was going through.

“Everybody needs to take a step back and realize this is happening to everyone. Everyone’s losing something,” she told The Anchorage Daily News back in March 2020.

Jacoby was not the only surprise winner in swimming this Olympics as Tunisia’s Ahmed Hafnaoui secured gold in the 400 metre freestyle. This was the North African country’s fifth ever gold medal.

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