Gold Medalist Lydia Jacoby, 17, Trained 2 Hours from Home After Local Pool Closed During Pandemic
Less pool training time didn't slow Lydia Jacoby down in the water on Tuesday.
The 17-year-old — who hails from Seward, Alaska — won the women's 100m breaststroke at the Tokyo Olympics, defeating teammate and record-holder in that event Lilly King, who took bronze. The silver medal went to Tatjana Schoenmaker, of South Africa.
"I had to take two months off due to COVID when it [the pandemic] first started," Jacoby told PEOPLE while talking to reporters during a press conference in Japan.
According to the Anchorage Daily News, Jacoby's local, 25-meter pool shut down in mid-March 2020. She said on Tuesday she was "then able to train with the team in Anchorage, Alaska, which is about two hours from my house. I have continued to go back and forth since then."
She later explained that her family was able to rent an apartment from another swimmer's family while in Anchorage, but even there, the training pool is L-shaped — so 25 meters in one direction, and 25 meters in the other. An Olympic-sized swimming pool is 50 meters long.
But it was just another challenge for Jacoby to overcome.
She told reporters that she started swimming competitively at age 6 when her parents had her join her town's club team. Their goal was water safety, as the family owns a sailboat.
"And then I just kept doing it, all my friends did it with me, it was just a fun thing," she recounted. "Then, when I was about 12, I broke my first state record. And that was kind of when I realized that it was something that I excelled at."
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She's not always in the pool though. In fact, Jacoby excels at music and previously played in a band with other local kids back home. Called the Snow River String Band, Jacoby played the bass and sings, according to videos on YouTube from 2018.
"There's a group of us that really enjoyed it, so our parents kind of brought us together and the group sort of played together," she told reporters. "We eventually formed the band and we played for about five or six years at different festivals throughout Alaska. We're not playing together anymore ... because different people are going to college. I still enjoy playing music and it's a great thing to do."
To learn more about Team USA, visit TeamUSA.org. Watch the Tokyo Olympics now on NBC.