Seward doesn't have an Olympic-sized pool, which is 50m, but the 17-year-old might help the town get its own now.
Lydia Jacoby surprised everyone, including herself, when she clinched gold in the 100-meter breaststroke at the Tokyo Olympics. People who had visited the 17-year-old's hometown Seward, Alaska, weren't too surprised, possibly telling their close friends that she trained for the Olympics by swimming with whales and sea lions in the small town that has no pool. Seward does have its own pool but it's been a running inside joke in Seward and the locals are going with it. “They can’t believe our teeny-weeny town has a pool,” said Zudy’s Cafe's co-owner Judy Odhner, reported NBC News. “They’d just as easily believe Lydia trains every day out there with the whales and sea lions. So we went with it. I mean, Lydia’s a real Alaska girl, so it’s believable.” The small town has a population of 2,800 people.
The video of Lydia Jacoby's friends and family cheering her on during the event at home has gone viral. The infectious energy certainly sums up the support the local champion enjoys. Jacoby is the first Alaskan to make the U.S. Olympic swim team and now, the first Alaskan swimmer to win Olympic gold. Jacoby's sensational win might see incredible investment into the facilities in the area, including building a new swimming pool.
Jacoby has certainly put her 'teeny-weeny town' Seward on the map after winning a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics. Cruise ship passengers who frequent the small town during summer were greeted with Seward championing their swimming sensation. The town was backing one of their own and the tourists were met with red, white, and blue "Go Lydia" stickers that were being sold everywhere. Zudy’s Cafe was a popular hangout for the cruise ship passengers and they'd be intrigued by the local sensation and ask where she trained. Odhner said she'd point out of the window towards Resurrection Bay, a large body of water bordering the town. The water body is a sight to see and is surrounded by jagged cliffs, deep coves, and alpine glaciers.
The photographs from the event tell you that Jacoby surprised herself. She was wide-eyed when she looked at the scoreboard and saw she had clinched the gold. "I was definitely racing for a medal. I knew I had it in me," said Jacoby after her win. "I wasn't really expecting a gold medal, so when I looked up and saw the scoreboard, it was insane." Her success in the global stage has seen a huge push for investment in a recreation center including a swimming pool in Seward, that could pave way for more Lydias.
Currently in the state of Alaska, there's just one 50-meter pool and that is 120 miles north of Seward at Bartlett High School in Anchorage. The biggest pool at Seward is at Lydia Jacoby's school, Seward High School, but it's only 25m, which forced her to travel to Anchorage in the run-up to the Olympics. Due to the pandemic, the pool at Seward high school was shut so she was forced to limit her training to weights and cardio in her garage. The games being postponed to 2021 really helped Jacoby as she had access to the pool at Anchorage. “I feel like I’m in a good place now, because when they closed the pool, I was really concerned about the Olympics and the trials,” she told The Anchorage Daily News at the time. “It’s not a fair environment because not everybody’s pools are closed.”
Local leaders have been pushing for a new recreation center and in the wake of Lydia's win, the dream has fresh impetus. The city council is scheduled to meet on the second Monday of August and Vice Mayor Tony Baclaan has confirmed the new recreation center is on the agenda. “We’ve scheduled a work session tomorrow and I expect the subject of a new pool is going to come up,” said Baclaan. “Lydia had to leave town to train in an Olympic-size pool. So absolutely there is renewed interest in this.”
US Senator Dan Sullivan has a habit of announcing an "Alaskan of the Week" award, which he usually announces every Thursday. Sullivan said he's going to make Jacoby the very first two-time recipient of the award. “Did you see how Seward, Alaska, responded?” Sullivan asked reporters, referring to viral video. “Remember, her community doesn't even have an Olympic-size swimming pool!" Cafe owner Judy Odhner believes now is the time to push for the recreation center. “I really hope the new pool happens. Right now, everybody is so excited and so happy, so I think they would support it.”