Lydia Jacoby, the Summer Olympics' Feel-Good Story, Has a Bluegrass Past

AP Photo/Matthias Schrader and Screengrab via YouTube

Lydia Jacoby, the 17 year old Alaskan whose gold medal win in the women's 100-meter breaststroke made her one of the 2021 Summer Olympics in Tokyo's breakout stars, was already a bluegrass champ as a member of the Snow River String Band.

"In my town (Seward), we used to have a bluegrass camp for kids every summer," she said (as quoted by Bluegrass Today). "There's a group of us that really enjoyed it, so our parents kind of brought us together."

Jacoby played upright bass (though she's also a skilled guitarist) and sang in the five-piece bluegrass band, as shown in multiple YouTube clips from the 2018 Anchorage Folk Festival.

"We played together for five or six years at different festivals in Alaska," the Olympic champion told Bluegrass Today.

The group parted ways as Jacoby's friends started moving away for college: a life change she'll embrace when she attends the University of Texas in Austin on an athletic scholarship following her senior year in high school.

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Jacoby's crowning moment at the Tokyo Olympics came against Lily King, a fellow Team USA swimmer identified by the Washington Post as "the queen of the 100-meter breaststroke, the 2016 Olympic gold medalist and the world record holder."

"[Jacoby] would have seemed more likely destined to become the next Jewel than the next ... Lilly King? Alaska has 424.5 million acres and just one proper, 50-meter, Olympic-size pool. It had never produced a swimming Olympian," added Washington Post sports columnist Barry Svrluga.

That's not to downplay Jacoby's world-class reputation. She broke her first state record at age 12 and has since devoted herself to her lofty Olympic swimming goals.

The Associated Press reports that Jacoby grew up around water. Both of her parents work as boat captains who lead whale watching tours.

Jacoby won over King and South African swimmer Tatjana Schoenmaker.

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Lydia Jacoby, the Summer Olympics' Feel-Good Story, Has a Bluegrass Past