In her hometown of Seward, Alaska, Lydia Jacoby swims in a 25-meter community pool.
“It worked perfectly for me,” Jacoby told the American statesman.
So perfectly, the future Texas Longhorn became a double olympic medalist at the age of 17, an accomplishment she celebrated with an Instagram post featuring a quote from Rhianna’s 2015 hit “American Oxygen.”
A slew of branded offerings followed with over 80,000 Instagram followers. In July, she will be celebrated again with the release of her official bobblehead, a partnership she simply justified: “Why not?”
“(My family) all thought it was hilarious,” Jacoby said. “I don’t think we’ve ordered any yet. We probably should.
Jacoby, now 18, also shifted her newfound focus to her community of Seward, where she began hosting clinics for young swimmers. She admits it was a “crazy idea” for her at first, but now, acknowledging her influence, she says the workshops have become a small way to give back to her home of around 2,800 people.
“Swimming in Alaska is a very close community,” Jacoby said. “Just because our population is so small, we don’t really have a very high level swimming program. So it’s been really fun to see the support I’ve received from the Alaska swimming community as a whole and the Seward community.
These are some of Jacoby’s last memories of Seward, his hometown whose residents went viral with their celebrations after Jacoby won gold at last year’s Summer Olympics in the 100-meter breaststroke. They launched the first Alaskan to march a U.S. Olympic swimming team last summer after returning from Tokyo as she boarded a tour boat in the Kenai Fjords and addressed a crowd of hundreds at the Fisherman’s Memorial.
But Jacoby, who has been committed to swimming for Texas since November 2020, also knows she’s ready to move on.
“Since I came back from the Olympics that summer, everything has happened so fast,” Jacoby said. “It’s been super life changing. So to go back to Seward, even though I love him, it’s funny because I’ve already been through this big chapter in my life. So I’m definitely ready for a big change and to have a very strong and competitive team to train with.
As a Longhorn, Jacoby will have the chance to train with fellow Olympians, be developed by top coaches, and train and compete in impressive facilities. Texas just finished second overall in the NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships last month, the program’s best finish since 1994. The Longhorns have won the last 10 women’s Big 12 titles.
Texas already has fellow Olympian Erica Sullivan, who won silver in the 1,500-meter freestyle at the 2020 Olympics. She also swims free in Texas. While Jacoby started swimming with her friends when they were young, she said most of them passed through middle and high school. These days, she mostly trains with high school students.
“I’m excited to be coming to a group that’s more my peer group,” she said. “I also have a lot of appreciation and love for my team, but I’m ready for a change.”
But while swimming played the main role in Jacoby’s decision to go to college, it also factored into UT’s other programs. She said he had always been interested in fashion and would major in textiles and apparel at UT.
She signed on a year and a half ago without making an official visit to Alaska due to NCAA COVID-19 restrictions. But she seemed content with her choice made before her stardom began in the Olympic spotlight.
“I was really happy that I was engaged before all of this happened,” she said. “Everything that followed was so overwhelming, and picking a school on top of it all would have been a lot.”
Before making the 3,000 mile trip to Austin, Jacoby still has a few things to wrap up. There are the world trials later this month. She also has her prom, then her graduation from Seward High in May. If she hadn’t rescheduled a swimming tournament, she would have missed the opportunity to take the stage as part of Seward’s 28-member senior class.
“Since the Olympics, I’ve kind of been forced to grow up quickly,” Jacoby said. “I definitely prioritized swimming, so it’s fun that it all fit together.”