2020 Tokyo Olympics Gold Medalist Lydia Jacoby Is Also a Bluegrass Musician, Watch Her Perform on Stage

by Suzanne Halliburton

Lydia Jacoby will be one of the faces we’ll all remember from the Tokyo Olympics.

She’s the teenager from Alaska, the daughter of two boat captains. Back home, her high school in Seward, Alaska held a watch party to cheer on their friend as she raced at the Tokyo Olympics. It was a big deal. Their screaming, giddy response went viral. That’s the best kind of Olympic moment.

Tokyo Olympics Showcased Only One of Jacoby’s Passions

But did you know that Jacoby isn’t just a super talented athlete? When she’s not in the pool, you may find her at a different sort of practice. Band practice. Like practice for a bluegrass band.

Jacoby told reporters gathered at the Tokyo Olympics aquatic center all about how she got involved in bluegrass. Blame summer camp.

“In my town, we used to have a bluegrass camp for kids every summer,” Jacoby said. “There’s a group of us that really enjoyed it, so our parents kind of brought us together.”

The summer camp production morphed into the Snow River String Band. Jacoby sings and plays the upright bass and guitar.

“We played together for five or six years at different festivals in Alaska,” Jacoby said.

Take a break from your Tokyo Olympics watching and check out Seward’s best bluegrass.

Here’s Why Jacoby’s Win Was So Stunning

Now, back at the Tokyo Olympics, Jacoby’s performance was a stunner. Here’s why:

Teammate Lilly King was a big favorite. She owned the world record. And, she was the defending Olympic champion. King also had four of the top five fastest times in the world this year. It’s difficult to top those credentials. Then there was Tatjana Schoenmaker of South Africa. She set the Olympic record in the race’s preliminaries. Yet Jacoby beat them both. Schoenmaker earned the silver, while King slipped to the bronze.

And maybe Jacoby can attribute her win to a set of hand-me-down, lucky pink goggles. Jessia Hardy, who won gold and bronze medals at the 2012 Olympics in London, gifted Jacoby her goggles a few years back when Hardy ran a summer swim camp.

“A lot of big-name swimmers come from big, powerhouse clubs,” Jacoby told the media at a Tokyo Olympics. “And I think that me coming from a small club, and a state with such a small population, really shows everyone that you can do it no matter where you’re from.”

Jacoby Will Have Another Gold Medal Chance in Relay

She’ll likely have a chance at another Tokyo Olympics medal, maybe gold. As the fastest breaststroker on the team, she’ll be on the 400 medley relay. The finals of that race are Friday.

After the Tokyo Olympics, Jacoby will head back to Seward for her senior year in high school. The town is a remote dot in a remote kind of state. Seward, with a population of about 2,700 people, is two and a half hours south of Anchorage. The only Olympic-size pool in the state is in Anchorage. Maybe that’s why it took Alaska so long to produce an Olympic swimmer. Jacoby was the first.

After high school graduation, Jacoby plans to compete for the University of Texas, a traditional swimming power. There are lots of pools in Austin and Jacoby probably can find a spot in a bluegrass band.