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Episode #57

Journey to Gold

with Lydia Jacoby

26 Oct, 2021 · Swimming

Lydia Jacoby, a Gold and Silver Medalist at the 2020 Olympics, shares her journey to Tokyo.

Transcript

Lydia Jacoby: 

Looking back at it now during the Olympics. When you go out there and you're walking around the village and it's so cool to be there, but on the other hand, everybody that's there is we're all the same. So then we're all just there together as equals. And then as soon as you get home and you're not in that environment anymore, you're suddenly idolized or put in different spot than everybody else. So learning to deal with that has been really hard for me.

But I'm also in a very lucky position in a small town having my class, my school, I've grown up with those exact same people since I was a baby. So they all know me as Lydia. They don't know me as a gold medalist. 

Stef Strack: 

Today's guest is Lydia Jacoby, a Tokyo Olympic gold medalist in the 100 meter breaststroke and silver medalist in the four by 100 medley relay. Lydia is a 17 year old swimmer from Seward, Alaska, and the future student athlete at the university of Texas. In this episode, we dive into Lydia's journey to the Olympics and her experience during her very first Olympics.

She takes us through her childhood, growing up in Alaska and how she overcame that difficult moment in her early teens when all of her friends started dropping out of swimming. Lydia gives us great advice, emphasizing the importance of taking time off training and knowing yourself as an athlete. And she reminds us that we need to find our own confidence and our own type of training in order to perform at our best.

Lydia tells us about her buildup to the Olympics during the COVID pandemic and how she dealt with the pressure of being one of the favorites in Tokyo at only 17 years old. She highlights the importance of mental health and sports psychology, giving us some tips on staying focused before big competitions like the Olympics.

I love Lydia story, not just because she's an Alaskan, but because it shows us that even if you are from a small town, hard work and determination can get you to the pinnacle of your sport. Thank you so much for sharing your journey with us, Lydia and welcome to the voice in sport podcast. 

Lydia Jacoby: 

I'm excited to be here. Thank you for having me. 

Stef Strack: 

I love it. It's so amazing to talk to another Alaskan. It's absolutely incredible what you have accomplished in this last Olympics. You went in there as a 17 year old and you came out as an Olympic gold medalist in the a hundred meter breaststroke and a silver medalist in the four by 100 medley relay.

So quite an accomplishment from somebody who is coming back to Seward, going into high school. Is near senior year. So congratulations on everything. 

Lydia Jacoby: 

Thank you. 

Stef Strack: 

In this episode, we're really going to go deep into your high school experience. How you stayed motivated throughout COVID leading up to the trials and talk a little bit about now your senior year heading into the university of Texas in 2022.

So let's start with how you grew up in a very small town in Alaska. Seward. How did you start? How old were you? How many people live in your town and walk us through what it was like growing up in Seward, Alaska.

Lydia Jacoby: 

So I was born in Anchorage and I grown up here my whole life. I was homeschooled through middle school and growing up, My family had a sailboat, so we spent a lot of time on there. And my parents put me on the swim team when I was around six, so that I could be water safe and really comfortable in the water.

Cause that's definitely important living in my town. And lots of kids do a similar thing just because we are a maritime community. So there's lots of jobs and different things that we do around the water. A lot of my friends were in it and we all did it together. So yeah, it was great.

And I think there's about 3000 people in my town give or take. So my class in school is about 30 kids and we've all known each other since we were babies. 

Stef Strack: 

Wow. That's amazing. I also was born in Anchorage, Alaska, so Anchorage knows how to bring out Olympians. You have Keegan Randall. Now you're up in the ranks with amazing people like herself and Holly Brooks. So congratulations. Let's go back a little bit to your younger years. So you started out swimming just for survival and making sure you know how to swim in a city like Seward, Alaska, but what other sports did you play growing up and how did you ultimately decide on swimming as your key sport?

Lydia Jacoby: 

I played a lot of sports growing up. Since it is a small town, there's not necessarily as much to do as a lot of different places. So that's definitely a big thing. So we have a little league baseball that I did growing up. Basketball, track, soccer. So yeah, I did a lot of sports but ultimately I really stuck with swimming when I was around 12.

I started seeing a lot of success. I broke my first state record in the a hundred meter brush stroke. And so from there, I kind of realized that that was my sport and I wanted to continue succeeding in it. And here I am. 

Stef Strack: 

So at age 12, is that when you decided to quit all your other sports and just focus solely on swimming, or did you keep doing basketball and baseball?

Lydia Jacoby: 

I think I did basketball through seventh grade. Baseball I stopped when I was pretty young. I did it in elementary school. And then soccer, I did all the way through middle school . And then track, actually, I didn't start until freshman year of high school. One of my coaches Solomon Tomiko.

He is a track coach as well. And so he really strongly suggested that I do that to supplement my swimming and give me a little bit more impact sports for my joints and everything. Cause swimming is great for you, but it doesn't necessarily give you all of that sort of stuff. 

Stef Strack: 

Yeah. I want to talk about that a little bit, because you know, you're 17, you'd now have a gold medal and you were playing other sports, which I think is so important because so many kids get pressured to just pick one and stick with one. What do you think something like track offered you in terms of becoming a great athlete? What do you think the advantage was of doing multiple sports?

Lydia Jacoby: 

Yeah, I mean, physically, I think it was great because it gave me a variety of training and allowed me to train different aspects of training that I normally had and that most people do. So it gave me a lot more variety. And then mentally, I think it's really easy to get too sucked into one sport and just really burn out.

So just keeping it fun. It was really important.

Stef Strack: 

Absolutely. Let's talk about the burnout because one of the reasons why have this community at Voice in Sport is to help encourage everyone to stay in sport. And unfortunately we know that there's a big drop off at age 14 and 15 for young female athletes dropping out of sports.

So I want to talk about your experience. I mean, at age 12, you broke a state record so you must've thought maybe I have a future here in sport and in swimming, but did you ever think about quitting and did you see some of your friends drop out along the way? How did that affect you?

Lydia Jacoby: 

Yeah, I definitely did. I'd say age 12 through age 14 most of my friends dropped out of swimming, pretty much all of them. So it was definitely really tough and just, it was right around the time that I started really excelling in it that everybody else started moving on to other things like focusing on basketball.

So it was really tough to stick with it. And I definitely went through a phase where I'd of like, think about quitting a lot or just doing something else. So it was really important for me during that time to focus on the positives, because I was getting fast.

I had a lot of opportunities to travel out of state and meet new people from other teams and swim as team Alaska rather than just sewage genomics from club. So I would get to race on a team with other people that are usually my competition in state. So that was really fun. And I met so many people through that.

It really pushed me to like keep practicing so that I could see them all at the next meet. 

Stef Strack: 

Yeah. Sometimes you have to get outside of your community a little bit and meet other people in the sport that might have similar goals, right? Cause not everybody's going to have that dream or motivation to go all the way to the top. For you was that something that you wanted to be an Olympian when you were younger? Is that something you thought about?

Lydia Jacoby: 

Yeah. I think a lot of people, when they first start sports, think like, oh, I want to be an Olympian. I think that's definitely a big dream. And it's interesting. Now having been there and actually experiencing it, it's so built up. And I think at least for me, and I imagine lots of other people have just thought about the Olympics so much.

It's just interesting to have seen it as a reality when it's been so romanticized. It was always a dream of mine, but I didn't really think it would happen this soon until just a few months before Trials. 

Stef Strack: 

When you say it was romanticized, what do you mean by that? Did it seem not as big of a deal than it actually was when you were in.

Lydia Jacoby: 

No, it definitely seemed like as big of a deal, but just so few people get to experience it. But so many people dream about it and hear about it. The way that we look at the Olympics is the same way that we imagine different settings of books that we read about. You hear about it online, you read about it, you hear about it from other Olympians and you have this image built up in your head. It was just interesting to go and see, how much of the image that you built was actually real and how much of it wasn't. 

Stef Strack: 

Oh, yeah, you think you dream about something for so long and then you're actually there in the moment, and it can be pretty surreal. Let's talk about how you got there. What was it that kept you motivated through high school? Swimming can be a pretty tough sport. You're up early you're training a lot of hours. What kept you motivated to stick with it and to continue to improve.

Lydia Jacoby: 

Yeah, a lot of those friends that I'd met Through Alaska swimming competitions and everything around the state have also been doing high school swimming with me. So again, I get to see them every weekend. And then during high school swimming season, as opposed to club, I have a bunch of my friends that used to swim, do it as well.

So it's a really fun environment. We do lots of little activities just that are fun and we keep it really light and stuff rather than having it be a super intense time. So that's definitely super motivating. And yeah, as I've gotten older, even more and more opportunities come up and I won my first junior national title when I was 15.

And so I had one double state championships and swimming by freshmen year. So it's just that continued success and build up also really motivated me.

Stef Strack: 

Well, we just interviewed and did a podcast with Jordan Chiles, the Olympic gymnast who won silver medal at the Tokyo Olympics. And we talked about how critical it is to have a support system. Can you tell us a little bit about the support system that you've created for yourself that has been part of your success.

Lydia Jacoby: 

Yeah, my support system has been huge. I've always had my parents and they've been probably my biggest supporters and always make things happen for me. And then I've also had a great group of coaches that I've been working with for years. And again, they always really support me in whatever I decide to do and push me to reach my goals and then living in such a small town, the whole community been really behind me. Even before the Olympics, it was extra evident then, but it's been like that for my whole life. 

Stef Strack: 

it's pretty cool. I think , even from a small town, you don't have to be in these LA New York cities to be number one in the world. And you're a great example of that. But at the same time, swimming is a sport where if you don't have a pool, it's hard to train.

So let's talk about just access for a little bit. Leading up to the Olympic trials, we were all going through COVID and it was really hard to access swimming pools, facilities to keep training. So how did you stay motivated during that? And what did you do to make sure you were keeping up with your training?

Lydia Jacoby: 

Yeah. So when COVID first hit the United States and we started going on lock down and March. Of 2020, I was out of the pool for two months. Our pool was shut down and all pools in Alaska pretty much. I didn't swim for two months, but I did a lot of running and hiking and skiing. And I also lifted quite a bit.

So I definitely stayed in shape and kept training just very differently than I had in the past. And then in may or so pools in Anchorage started opening up. So I actually moved up to Anchorage for the summer with one of my friends from Homer and we trained up there with the team. It was definitely really different, but I honestly think that that year gave me what I needed to be able to make my way onto the team.

With the Olympic trials being postponed from June of 2020 to June of 2021, it gave me an extra year to train. And that was really an advantage for the younger swimmers. And it's really evident on the team. There were 11 teenagers this year, which is like six more than have ever been on the team before.

But yeah, it gave us that extra year to train and 'cause I was up in Anchorage I didn't know as many people. And so this one team was who I hung out with the whole time. It was just a bigger part of my life than it had been before.

Stef Strack: 

It is pretty incredible to see just how many young Olympians there were this year. And, I want to talk a little bit about that pressure, you're going in. So the Olympic trials, and you're seeing some of the people that you have looked up to your entire life right there with you in the trials, how did you deal with that pressure leading up to the trials because sometimes the trials can be even harder or more intense than the Olympics.

Lydia Jacoby: 

Yeah. Well, it's interesting in April of 2021, a couple months before trials, I went to California for one of the professional swim series that they host over there. And I got second to Lily king or world record holder. And the heat that I was swimming in was pretty much give or take a few women, the heat that was swimming and finals of Olympic trials.

And that was when I realized that I had the ability to do it and that I really wanted to do it again. There was a lot of publicity inside Alaska about that. So I started getting a lot of people coming up to me and asking me what it felt like to be an Olympian when I wasn't even an Olympian yet.

Which like, I mean, it's cool, super supportive , but it was just tough. And I started putting a lot of pressure on myself because I needed to earn that title and it's stressed me out that people were already giving it to me when I didn't have it.

So Yeah. There was a lot of pressure. And actually about a month before trials, I started going to a mental performance coach Holly Brooks. So yeah, that was very helpful for me.

Stef Strack: 

Yeah. That's gotta be hard. You haven't even been there yet. Why are you giving me that title? I can imagine that puts extra stress on how you're feeling leading up to the Olympics. So let's talk a little bit about mental performance coaches. Cause that's one of the things we offer on the voice in Sport platform.

It's so important to train your mental side, just as much as you're training your physical body, leading up to amazing events like this. So what have you learned by working with Holly and starting to focus on your mental skills.

Lydia Jacoby: 

Yeah. I'm not a type of person who likes to share a lot of my emotions with people. So it was really helpful for me just to be able to talk to someone that wasn't really connected with my day to day. Just be able to talk to her about that. And she's also an Olympian.

So that was really cool. She went through a lot of the same stuff that I've been going through. And just talking through problems that I've been having or within sport or out of sport, so super helpful.

Stef Strack: 

Yeah. Sometimes it's easier to talk to people who are not as close to you, just offers a different perspective which I think can be really great. So what biggest thing that you feel like she helped you with on the mental performance side, heading into the Olympics?

Lydia Jacoby: 

I would say that I definitely struggled with what other people were thinking. Like what I mentioned before people saying I was an Olympian before I actually was, or after the Olympics. I don't know. I'm a pretty private person. So having all that attention has been really weird and it's been hard to block what people say about me.

So having her to guide me through staying focused on yourself and what you think in your inner circle, rather than letting everybody else's opinions guide your athletic and not athletic life. 

Stef Strack: 

Yeah. What advice would she give you on something like that? Cause I feel like that might be pretty common. Like you start performing well in any sport and people start talking and people start giving you titles or putting you in boxes. And all of a sudden that starts messing with your mental game a little bit.

So do you remember some of the advice she gave you that we could also pass on to these other girls that might be feeling the same way?

Lydia Jacoby: 

Yeah, for sure. Like you said, once you get to a certain level, people, all of a sudden they're noticing you and they all want to have a little bit of what you have. It's just really important to remember, what you came to do and remember who you are and what your goals are and not change those based on what other people are telling you. Remember who your inner circle is, take advice from them. I'm not saying don't take advice from other people, but recognize that these people weren't in your life before and you don't necessarily have to let them direct your life once they decide they want. 

Stef Strack: 

Wow. That's so important. Well, leading up into the Olympics, sounds like you did a really awesome thing. You sought help. You had a really strong support system. You started exploring the mental side of your performance and your mindset.

Did you ever have a mantra or something that you carried into your practice, especially in that lead up to the Olympics. Once you qualified and you knew you were going to go, what was that month or so for you in terms of your training, both mentally and physically, before you got to Tokyo.

Lydia Jacoby: 

Yeah, well, after I qualified I came home for two days and then I flew out to train in Hawaii with the team. And we were there for two and a half weeks about, and then we flew to Japan and moved into the village and trained a little before we started competing. It was a big whirlwind and obviously a lot of change.

Just being away from home, being away from my family And friends who had always been there. Like I was talking about before, just focusing on what you were doing before that got you there. And the coaches at the Olympics USA swimming and put a lot of emphasis on keeping as much routine and schedule like we had at home before trials, as we could into our training camp before the Olympics. Just to keep some normalcy both mentally and physically.

Stef Strack: 

And did you find the training to be harder? When you moved from the work that you were doing in Seward and then Anchorage during the pandemic over to training with everybody else's going to the Olympics. Was there a switch in training? Did you learn anything, observed anything from the older athletes that you took away that helped improve your performance?

Lydia Jacoby: 

Yeah, I wouldn't say it was necessarily harder, but our coaches had a lot of say in the steps that we did and our program from home. And they would give that advice to the coaches, the staff that was there and they would give that to us. So a lot of it was very similar to what I had been doing, but just being in that environment in the pool.

50 or so other people who were just as dedicated and motivated and ready to perform as I was, is just really motivating. It just pushes you to be your best every day. 

Stef Strack: 

Absolutely. Were there any surprises when you did get to Hawaii and you're doing the training and you're like, okay, a couple of weeks away from Olympics, was there any surprises that you had or anything that you did that changed your routine, that they had you focus on? 

Lydia Jacoby: 

Yeah, one thing that we did that was a little different. Typically I wake up at 5:30 to go to a morning practice at six. And then I have an afternoon practice at around two or three. But because the games in Japan this is different than a normal meet. Your normal prelims in the morning and then finals in the evening. They had finals in the morning and prelims in the evening so that it would air in prime time in America.

So we did a lot of practice to get used to that we would have our morning practices were kind of a little bit in the middle of the morning, so we wouldn't have to wake up as earlier, but then we'd get our more intense, harder practices during the time that finals would be. And then in the evening we did a supplementary practice.

And we did it pretty late too. We'd get back around nine or 10 at night. 

Stef Strack: 

Wow. Okay. So, what is the idea behind training two times a day like this? Do you ever get exhausted and how do you stick with it? 

Lydia Jacoby: 

I honestly don't know. It's very much a swimming thing. We train so much, I usually do two mornings swims a week, five afternoon swims a week, and then two to three weightlifting sessions. And that's pretty average for a swimmer. A lot of people would do more than that.

 You just get used, you don't even realize that you're tired sometimes. Like your body just feels constantly tired. Like I remember talking to my mom before trials, when I was tapering, I was resting a lot. And just being like, I don't remember my body feeling good, feeling So rested. I never really hurt, but it's never 100% rested and ready to go. Cause you're always taxing it, pushing it to the max. So, yeah, it's definitely interesting. 

Stef Strack: 

Well, I think you'd just mentioned something so important. It's a tough sport and you're doing twice a day practices a lot of the times. So it's so important to fuel your body. With the right food. And get the right amount of sleep. How have you sort of tackled those two areas of your training? The nutrition side, as well as the sleep.

Lydia Jacoby: 

Yeah. I don't currently work with a nutritionist , but I generally eat pretty healthy. Everything in moderation, you know? And just not being scared to eat. Like I know It's tough, going to school sometimes and eating three times as much as your friends, because you're just burning so many calories.

But just recognizing that that is what's going on and that it's okay to eat that much and that it's necessary. It was really important.

Stef Strack: 

It's so important. Because the average person is not doing what you're doing with your body. So you gotta fuel it even more.

Lydia Jacoby: 

Yeah, for sure. And then sleep. I definitely could do better. I try to get eight hours a night, but it doesn't always happen. But I do well with a lot of sleep. I'm not a big napper, so I try to get it all on at night. 

Stef Strack: 

Me neither. Although napping is really good for you. I just can't get myself to do it. 

Lydia Jacoby: 

It just feels like a waste of time. Even though its really not. 

Stef Strack: 

Even top CEOs leading companies take power naps. So there's definitely something to learn from that. I just find it to be hard. So I always try to work really hard on getting enough sleep at nighttime.

Because that's when your body's recovering and it's so important. So you said a little bit about tapering, you tapered your training leading up to the Olympics. What did that look like?

Lydia Jacoby: 

Usually for my tapers, I bring down the yardage a lot, but I pick up speed and intensity. So I'll do shorter practices with a lot less yardage, but working more speed and doing more focused work. So it's just drilling those fine points to get you ready to race.

Stef Strack: 

Amazing. how do you balance it all? I mean, when you're in high school You're now in your senior year, but how do you balance so much practice, making sure you do well in your schoolwork? You've been accepted to university of Texas, so you must be doing it, right? What advice would you give to girls that are having a hard time finding that balance with their swimming or sport and school?

Lydia Jacoby: 

Yeah, it's definitely tough and I will not lie. It's not always easy, but the biggest thing, honestly, I would say is just don't procrastinate. It just doesn't help anything. When you get schoolwork, get it done when you get home. When you have to do chores, get them done.

And if you have stuff done it just releases so much stress and you're able to get better sleep. You're able to focus on eating a lot better than you would have before. And when your mental and physical performance really go hand in hand. So just making sure that.

You're mentally stable and happy and doing well will really reflect in your performance.

Stef Strack: 

Yeah, I think that's so important. So what do you do to make sure that you're in a healthy mental state?

Lydia Jacoby: 

I like to make sure that I have all the things that I need to do and get them done. And know it's really easy to get carried away with, oh, I'm on such a busy schedule. I have so much to do sports, swimming, school, all of that. But just making sure that you're taking time to do things that you enjoy as well. I like to play music. I like to do art photography, see my friends. So just making sure you take time to do that stuff so that you'll be better prepared to do the harder stuff.

Stef Strack: 

Yeah. Oh, that's such good advice, right? it sounds like even yourself, olympic gold medalist, you are taking breaks and having fun with your friends. 

Lydia Jacoby: 

Yeah, and I think that's another thing we were talking about earlier such intense training schedules. I think there's big stigmas around that too. Especially in swimming. I'm not really sure about other sports, but I know there are a lot that think you can't take more than a couple of days off or the phrase like I'm so out of shape after taking three days off is a really common one.

Even though it takes a couple months to start losing muscle. So I think that's a big stigma that doesn't necessarily apply to anything it's all right to take a week off. It's all right to take two weeks off. But just making sure that you're dedicated and consistent while you're doing that. 

Zosia Bulhak: 

Thank you for listening to the voice in support podcast. My name is Zosia Bulhak, and I'm a cross country runner at the University of Houston, as well as the producer of this week's episode. If you enjoy hearing from Lydia Jacoby and would like to get the chance to talk to athletes like her, go to voices, sport.com/join to sign up for a free membership and gain access to exclusive episodes, mentorship sessions, and other weekly calls.

Don't forget to follow us on Instagram, Twitter, and talk @voiceinsport. Now let's get back to the episode.

Stef Strack: 

Yeah, I think it's such important advice I think when you're in it, sometimes it can be like, oh, if I take a day off, I'm going to get behind. It's like, no, actually you take a day off you might actually jump five steps forward.

Lydia Jacoby: 

Exactly. Or if you're absolutely exhausted and it's better to take a day off and rest up and get more high quality training that is in the rest of the week, then just keep grinding through and do all kinds of mediocre. 

Stef Strack: 

Yeah. Because you also might not know or recognize that maybe your body just needs a break versus completely quitting and leaving the sport. And I feel like sometimes athletes think it has to be all or nothing. And we just had a conversation with Gwen Jorgensen, Olympian in the triathlon.

she went in a gold medal and she was talking about the power of 3 day break. And I wish I would have had that mindset when I was younger. This idea of the power of three day off, and what that can do for you mentally and physically, you're not gonna lose all your muscle or get terrible with your stroke. You'll be fine. 

But it's hard when you're in the moment to realize that and instead I feel like people just quit because they get burned out. How did you avoid burnout?

Lydia Jacoby: 

Yeah, Like I mentioned before making sure that it doesn't become all consuming for me. It's really important to separate swimming from other aspects of my life. Just making sure, it's like leaving work at work. Making sure when you come home that you're just can tank and do other things.

And again, like I touched on before is Taking time to see your friends and do things that you enjoy so that you're happy with your life and happy with what you're doing and not just so focused that you can't really think about anything else and just aren't happy.

Stef Strack: 

Yeah, totally. Well, let's go to the moment of before the gold metal actually happened let's talk about the lineup because you're going into the Olympics clearly a favorite, but you're getting in the pool right next to Lily king. Who is essentially owned this space for awhile.

What was it like to get in the pool and the lineup right next to her? And what was going through your head, the moment that you were heading to the pool. You're about to start the race, 

Lydia Jacoby: 

Yeah.  

Stef Strack: 

What were you thinking?

Lydia Jacoby: 

Well, it was actually pretty crazy in those three days of the race. We had prelim semi-finals and finals. In my prelims race, I swimming Tatjana the south African swimmer she broke the Olympic record in the line right next to me. And then in semi-finals Tatjana and I both beat Lily and it was the first Lily had never been beaten head to head since Rio in 2016.

 And semifinals I'd really psyched myself out and got myself really nervous and I didn't really perform very well. So I tried really hard in that day, leading up to it, to just relax and have fun and just be in the moment. And so when I stepped on those blocks, I felt really ready to go.

And unlike trials, it was really fun to be in the red room with Lily and have her be my teammate. Like getting ready to do it together, you know? 

Stef Strack: 

So when you were on the blocks, were you thinking. I'm going to win this, or were you just have fun? What was going through your head when you were on the blocks in that moment? Do you remember? Or was it just pure focus 

Lydia Jacoby: 

I knew that I was in a good spot to be a medalist, but I didn't honestly really think that I would be a gold medalist. I knew that if I was on the top of my game and the others weren't that it could be possible. And I knew that even if they weren't, it could be, but I was really just focused. I really wanted a metal. So I went out there. Did it and yeah. I was just trying to stay in a happy place and not get too intense. In the days leading up to it I think a lot of people really psych themselves out. They just think about it so much that it becomes all consuming and you just picture more and more things that could go wrong or more and more things that are stressful about it.

So I really like before that finals race, I just pushed all of it out of my mind. I didn't even think about my race until I was in the ready room. Like 20 minutes before. So just. Not overthinking is just so important for me. I don't know a lot of people, I know it helps them so much to visualize over and over and over.

And I definitely do do some of that, but when it gets to that week leading up to it, I try to kind of stay away from that. 

Stef Strack: 

Yeah. And relax a bit which obviously it worked, you performed amazingly and then you walked home with a gold medal to Alaska. What was it like coming back to your hometown the gold medal?.

Lydia Jacoby: 

It was so cool. Like I mentioned before, the whole community has always been so supportive of me. Coming home with both metals. So cool. Pretty much every business and a lot of houses in town had go Lydia signs on them and banners and pictures. So it was just amazing to see all the support.

And everybody was so excited and they had a big parade for me when I got home. So yeah,it was pretty cool. 

Stef Strack: 

That's so amazing. And I think so inspiring to girls around the world that are from small towns and maybe thinking, I'm not on this elite club or that elite club, I might not make it. Well, I think that you're a great inspiration for those girls.

No matter where you're coming from, if you put the work in, you can make it, which is really cool. What would you like to whisper to a young girl in another small town somewhere? 

Lydia Jacoby: 

Like you said, anything is possible and it doesn't matter where you're from or what access you have to different equipment or what knowledge you have, with time and dedication you can really make anything happen and just finding that support system and that drive to train is really important. 

Stef Strack: 

Yeah. Where do, where do you think your drive comes from? Did you always have it? 

Lydia Jacoby: 

I've always been a pretty competitive person. And ever since I was about 12, I pretty dominant in the brushstroke within Alaska at least, and so, I'm very motivated to continue that. It's just, yeah, I'm competitive. And I like to stay ahead. 

Stef Strack: 

That's amazing. Well, what has it been like coming back? You're not like many other Olympians, but you are headed back into high school and basically back to normal.

So has it been hard to come back to that new environment or that same environment with this huge accomplishment that you just had, can you tell us a little bit about what you've been going through? 

Lydia Jacoby: 

It's definitely been hard. Looking back at it now during the Olympics. When you go out there and you're walking around the village and it's so cool to be there, but on the other hand, everybody that's, there is we're all the same. We're all pretty much the best at what we do.

And we're all Olympians. So then we're all just there together as equals. And then as soon as you get home and you're not in that environment anymore, you're suddenly idolized or put in a different spot than everybody else. So learning to deal with that has been really hard for me.

But I'm also in a very lucky position in a small town having my class, my school, I've grown up with those exact same people since I was a baby. So they all know me as Lydia. They don't know me as a gold medalist. So having them be able to treat me like a normal person. 

Stef Strack:

It keeps you grounded. It sounds like you have such a great community there that it keeps you grounded. Is it hard to focus? You're going to the university of Texas, you want to continue to compete on this world stage. Is it hard to focus? Is it hard to do your school work now, or are you finding yourself still laser focused on what you need to accomplish?

Lydia Jacoby: 

Yeah, I'm pretty focused. I'm pretty task oriented. So if I get an assignment or anything, I do it, but I definitely have pretty severe senior-itis at the moment, but I'm thinking good. Bringing it back to normal. Training's back to normal. So That's been nice to be consistent again. And with school I am taking just a couple harder classes I'm done with most of my credits. And then I have a lot of fun classes like art and film photography.

So just kind of having fun with it. And even at my harder classes, it's all my friends in class with me.

Stef Strack: 

That's amazing. What are you most excited about going to the University of Texas and getting into the collegiate sports world?

Lydia Jacoby: 

I'm super excited about all of it. I'm excited to start both the school side and the swim team is great. I'm super excited to get down there. A couple of the people on the team were actually at the Olympics with me. So yeah, I was just really excited. I already have a great support system going down there.

Yeah, it'll be great. 

Stef Strack: 

That's amazing. What do you think you're going to study? 

Lydia Jacoby: 

Right now I want to study fashion apparel, design and management. Something in the fashion industry, but I'm not really sure yet.

Stef Strack: 

I'm so excited for you. I'm so proud of you, Lydia. I think what you've done is just really inspiring. So thanks for sharing so much of your insights and your journey with the Voice in Sport community. We're excited that you're part of our community. What would be one piece of advice that you would like to give to young girls out there in sport today?

Lydia Jacoby: 

The biggest thing that I'd like to say is that you should always remember what you earned and what you did. I think it's easy to get carried away thinking, oh, I'm just a girl or I'm just a teenager, but just remember that you earned your spot going into the games. I finished trials and I was on that Olympic high, whereas like, wow.

Like I did this and then before camp, I was like, oh wow, I'm going into a month. And I'm going to be living with all these record holders and gold medalist. And is do I really deserve to be there? Am I good enough? And just remembering that you earned that and that you did it is probably the biggest piece of advice that I could give.

Stef Strack: 

I love it. Cause it's gotta be intimidating to be. With some of those older athletes that have already accomplished many things that are on your plate to accomplish, but how do you deal with that sort of environment, how do you go into that and not feel intimidated? What advice would you give to other girls that might be about to be in your spot like that?

Lydia Jacoby: 

Yeah.

It's funny. A lot of people kind of said to me like, oh, I don't know how you could do that. Being so like humble and stuff. And it's interesting to me when people say that because I think everybody competing on that level is I'm confident if not cocky to a certain degree. And you really have to be to be able to kind of hold your own.

Like excel in that environment. So it's just a matter of whether you choose to project that on the rest of the world, or just keep that quietly confident, you know? but yeah, just remembering that you earned your spot there, just like everybody else. 

Stef Strack: 

I love what you just said. Cause there's a difference of quiet confidence and in your face cocky. How has the way you approach confidence? How has that helped you succeed?

Lydia Jacoby: 

Yeah. I think it's different for everyone. So I wouldn't necessarily say that I'd give this as a piece of advice. I know. For Lily, she likes to be super outwardly confident. She likes everyone to know that she's confident. And come in there with a big persona and know that everybody's a little bit intimidated by her.

That's kind of her thing. That's what makes her feel good? For me, I like to just kind of keep that to myself and know that I have the power to do it and that I can do it, but not necessarily project that so that people have expectations. For what I can do, if that makes sense. So I think there's a lot of ways to handle it. But you just have to figure out what helps you and what motivates you most.

Stef Strack: 

Yeah, I love that. And there's not one way. I think that's, what's also really important, right? Just like leadership actually. There can be leaders in corporate worlds that are outspoken and loud and they can be great leaders. And then there are quieter leaders that can be incredibly powerful and accomplish amazing things. And I think it's important to see that the spectrum can be really successful in life.

Lydia Jacoby: 

Exactly. And there's not just one right way, they all work. It's just finding what works for you. 

Stef Strack: 

That's right. I feel like that is the same thing when it comes to your training a little bit and even though, it seems like there is a formula and swimming of training twice a day, and really late practices, et cetera. But you do have to find out what's right for you, that good mix of how do you fuel your body enough? Have confidence to stick with it. Right. And then work on your performance, both physically and mentally. So now that you have gone through that, path of coming up through the system Alaska, which is incredible to going to the Olympic stage and winning gold. Do you reflect on your journey now and say, oh, had I known X, Y and Z when I was 13 or 14. Maybe I would be in a different spot. For the girls that are coming up behind you, what advice would you tell them that you wish you would've known?

Lydia Jacoby: 

Yeah, that's an interesting question. I'm not entirely sure. Honestly, I don't know if I would say I would change anything, but I think the more I grow through the sport, the more I learn about it and I was saying, finding out what works for you. I know there's the idea of always training twice a day is how it's done, but just really personalizing everything that you do and finding what works both mentally and physically. Finding your type of confidence, finding your type of training remembering to take breaks and recognizing that that's all okay. 

Stef Strack: 

Yeah, I love that. To any girl that's listening out there right now and wants to be in your shoes. I think there's a lot of really important lessons that we talked about today. Whether that's taking a break. Or making sure you're having fun, finding a support system.

I mean, these are all really, really important things to having a healthy journey in sports. I'd love to end with our last question around the sports industry. In general, we know that there's still a lot of progress to be made for women's sports. Swimming does seem like one of those sports where it's a little bit more equal, whether it's prize money or visibility media, et cetera.

But I am curious to know if you could change one thing for the future of women's sports. What would you like to see change?

Lydia Jacoby: 

I think this applies to all aspects of sports, both men and women, but during the Olympics you really see a lot of the pressure that comes with the sport the more success you get, the more benefits you get and a lot of things improve, but it's also tough to see all the pressure and how mentally taxing it is for some more than others too.

But I think also in America, it's interesting to look at we're very much a football, basketball country. So we see wins and loses. For sports like swimming or track or skiing, it's not necessarily a win or lose, people tend to value gold medals a lot more than others. Even though, I'm just as proud of my silver medal as I am with my gold.

Just keeping it in perspective and recognizing that each sport is individual. And each person that does it is an individual. 

Stef Strack: 

Oh, that's so important. We talk a lot about, finding your identity outside of sport, or outside of your medals. And I think that's really important, right? You're more than an athlete. You're more than a medal and that's really important to carry with you always.

I bet. Now even more than ever with you having a gold medal, it's like you, that doesn't define you. It's a really amazing part of who you are, but it's not the whole Lydia. I'm excited to see what you go and do at university of Texas. We're really excited Lydia that you're part of the Voice in Sport community. So thank you for joining our community. And we're really proud of everything that you've accomplished, excited to see what you do next

Lydia Jacoby: 

Yeah. Thank you. I'm excited to be a part of it too. 

Stef Strack: This week's episode was produced and edited by VIS Creator, Zosia Bulhak, a track and cross country athlete from the University of Houston. Lydia, thank you so much for sharing your journey with us today. It is so inspiring to see the energy and talent that you bring to the sport of. As athletes, we all sometimes struggle with finding confidence during big meets, hard training sessions, or even just daily life.

But Lydia's story shows us how important it is to remember our own self-worth as athletes, what our goals are and who in our lives that have helped us get to where we are, whether you feel overwhelmed by university or schoolwork, whether you're in a very tough training. Or even if life is just feeling a bit busy at the moment, Lydia, it reminds us to take the time to do the things we love.

 At the end of the day they will make us happier and better athletes. 

Thank you for sharing your story with us. Lydia, congrats on the gold medal at this year's Olympics. We are so excited to see all the incredible things you will achieve in sport and beyond. You can follow Lydia on Instagram @lydiaalicee_, and please subscribe to the Voice in Sport podcast.

Give us a rating and review on apple podcast and send this episode to a friend that you think might enjoy the conversation. You can follow us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and tick-tock at voice in sport. And if you're interested in joining our community, sign up for free@voiceinsport.com. When you joined voice in sport, you gain access to our exclusive content and podcasts, mentorship sessions from professional athletes and access to the top experts in sports, psychology, and nutrition, starting as low as $18 a month.

 You might also want to check out other episodes featuring VIS athlete in Tokyo, Olympic silver medalist, Jordan Chiles and episode 53. She talks about being you and being beautiful. And she is an incredible role model. See you next week on the Voice in Sport podcast.

Lydia Jacoby, a Gold and Silver Medalist at the 2020 Olympics, shares her journey to Tokyo.