Seward’s Lydia Jacoby likely became Alaska’s first Olympic swimmer with a stunning kick in the women’s 100-meter breaststroke final at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials.
The 17-year-old was fifth after the first 50 meters but surged in the back-half of the race to finish second in a blistering time of 1 minute, 5.28 seconds — the second-fastest time in the world this year — Tuesday in Omaha, Nebraska.
Who holds the fastest time in the world this year? Lilly King.
King, the 100 breaststroke world record-holder, held off a fast-charging Jacoby to finish in 1:04.79.
“We swim completely different races, but I kind of tried to mess with her in the ready room, but she wasn’t having it. I respect that and am glad to have a new partner heading into Tokyo,” King told NBC Sports reporter Michelle Tafoya after clinching her second trip to the Olympics.
Jacoby, a member of the Seward Tsunami swim club, hasn’t entirely sealed a spot on the 26-person USA swimming roster, as NBC announcer Mike Tirico pointed out on the broadcast. But, it’s nearly a foregone conclusion.
Since an event was added to the Tokyo Olympics, only event winners clinch a spot on Team USA. The rest of the squad will be announced after the trials end on Sunday.
“You can’t, with complete certainty, say that the second-place finishers are going to be Olympians. It has always happened, and it will likely happen again this year, but not 100 percent sure,” Tirico said.
As Jacoby made her move, picking off swimmers, NBC announcer Rowdy Gaines set the stage for the end of the race.
“Watch the blue cap. Everybody in Alaska is on the edge of their seat right now,” Gaines said.
Jacoby finished .32 seconds ahead of third-place finisher Annie Lazor (1:05.60).
After finishing, it took Jacoby several seconds to realize what she had just accomplished. She then reached across the lane line to embrace King.
“I can’t tell you how much it means to me,” Jacoby told swimmingworldmagazine.com. “I’m so excited. It means so much to me to be able to represent my state at a meet like this. And I’m so excited to now represent my country as well.
“It’s amazing. I knew it was going to be a very high emotion meet because so many people have so much riding on it. I came into this meet, obviously with expectations for myself but knowing that I have so much of my career ahead of me, so just trying to keep that in perspective. It means so much to me that that headspace worked out, and I was able to get past the bigger emotions and focus on my races.”
According to the Anchorage Daily News, only 12 Alaskans have qualified for the swimming trials. Before Jacoby, Petersburg’s Derek Gibb was the only Alaskan to advance to the 16-swimmer semifinals. He placed 15th in the 50 freestyle in 2004.
In Monday’s semifinal, Jacoby set the national age-group record with a time of 1:05.71 to finish third overall and secure a spot in Tuesday’s final.
Kodiak swimmers Nick Carver, Ian Rocheleau and Amaya Rocheleau were part of the Alaska contingent inside the Chi Health Center Omaha.