Lydia Jacoby may be one of the more unlikely gold medalists to come out of the Tokyo Olympics.
Jacoby, 17, who won gold in the 100-meter breaststroke Monday, is the first Olympic swimmer from Alaska and just the 10th Olympian from the state ever to compete in the Summer Games. She beat defending gold medalist and teammate Lilly King, who took home the bronze, while South Africa's Tatjana Schoenmaker claimed the silver.
Several friends attended a watch party in Jacoby’s hometown of Seward, Alaska, where people erupted in cheers as Jacoby pulled off the upset.
She wasn’t so sure she could win a gold medal, though.
“I knew it could be, and I wanted it to be, but I was just fighting to get on the podium at all, so it’s just incredible to come out of the water and see my name on the scoreboard,” she told Savannah Guthrie on TODAY Tuesday.
Jacoby said she was trying to embrace the enormity of the moment, especially considering how she won gold with King by her side.
“It’s incredible and just to be able to do that beside Lilly, who’s been a big inspiration to me my whole life and now she’s my teammate and we’re competing and being on the podium together means a lot,” she said.
Jacoby is also grateful King was so happy for her in defeat.
“It meant a lot to me,” she said. “That’s tough. She’s the reigning Olympic champion and the reaction could’ve been very different. I was just so happy that she was so gracious and so amazing. That really shows how much Team USA comes together to all support each other.”
Perhaps the only people more excited than Jacoby were the legion of fans who turned out for the watch party in her hometown. She said it’s great that so many people she knows cheered her on.
“I haven’t really watched it in detail yet, but there’s definitely some of my best friends in the front there,” she said, while noting she recognized some of the people in the clip.
“We all grew up together, so it means a lot they’re here supporting me. We did this together.”
Jacoby said her parents got her into swimming at age 6 because they were into boating and wanted her to be safe in the water. An Alaskan winning a medal in swimming sounds improbable, but she has pulled off the feat.
“We have one 50-meter pool in Alaska,” she said, noting that it prohibited her from training consistently.
Jacoby is not done yet, either. She will also compete in the 4x100-meter medley relay and could potentially compete in the 4x100-meter mixed medley relay, according to NBC Olympics.