Swimmer Lydia Jacoby, the Alaskan surprise of the Tokyo Olympics, is left at home for Paris Games

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Lydia Jacoby is still a bit shell-shocked.

The Alaskan darling of the Tokyo Games will be watching the Paris Olympics from home.

If she watches at all.

“You know, I haven’t quite gotten there yet,” Jacoby said. “I haven’t really processed the fact that I won’t be swimming there. I’m honestly not really sure if I want to watch my event.”

The Olympics are a fickle beast, and no one knows that better than Jacoby.

After becoming the first swimmer from Alaska to make the powerhouse American team, Jacoby won a stunning gold medal in the 100-meter breaststroke in Japan, knocking off favorite Lilly King.

Jacoby won't get a chance to defend her title in France.

She finished third in her signature event at the the U.S. Olympic trials. Only the top two will get to swim in Paris.

“It hasn’t quite hit me yet,” Jacoby said Tuesday. “I definitely had a little cry last night. But I’ve been doing pretty well today, so I’m sure there’ll be a lot of time to cross those emotions in the next couple of weeks. I trying to line up some fun things to look forward to this summer.”

After winning a gold medal at age 17 — and doing it, no less, as a native of tiny Seward, Alaska (population: 2,851) — Jacoby found it a bit challenging to deal with her swimming fame.

Her entire hometown seemed to climb on the bandwagon, famously cheering her on from afar as she touched the wall at the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Games.

The adulation took a toll.

Jacoby said she went through some “post-Olympic depression and kind of feeling like my identity was locked up in sports.” She had to convince herself that she was more than a swimmer.

“Being a swimmer is something I do,” she said. “It’s not something I am. I have so many interests and passions. I have amazing friends, amazing family outside of the sport. So I feel like remembering those things is just a big thing for me.”

She arrived in Indianapolis feeling good about her chances of making another Olympic team, even though King, the longtime American breaststroke stalwart, was still in the mix.

King won the 100 breast Monday night, which wasn't a major surprise, but Jacoby was also beaten by Emma Weber, who claimed the second spot on the Olympic team by 0.27 seconds.

“I’m a little frustrated," Jacoby said. “I’m so happy for Lilly. I’m so happy for Emma. I’ve been racing both of them for years. It’s going to be an amazing experience, so I wish them both the best. But it’s just frustrating.”

King said her “heart absolutely breaks” for the swimmer who had been her biggest American rival.

“That’s just kind of how this meet rolls,” King said. “It will make your career and break your career in a minute. It’s the hardest meet in the world. It’s a lot harder than the Olympics in my opinion. I hope she can move forward from this, and I’m rooting for her always.”

Jacoby noted that her third-place time of 1 minute, 6.37 seconds was more than a second slower than what she produced at the 2021 trials. It wasn't even close to her gold medal-winning time of 1:04.95 at the Olympics.

“I don’t feel like I put up a swim that was a good representation of what I can do, which is the most frustrating part to me,” Jacoby said. “But I’ll be back and be better.”

Indeed, Jacoby intends to keep swimming with an eye on the 2028 Los Angeles Games. She's only 20 years old, with plenty of potentially prime years still in front of her. Any thoughts of retirement — which definitely crossed her mind after Tokyo — have been pushed aside.

“Obviously, I put a lot of emotion into this and it is pretty devastating,” she said. “But it’s also not the end of the road.”


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