Unfortunately, I missed the live watch party for Lydia Jacoby’s swim in the Mixed 4x100m Medley Relay on Friday night. The next morning, my heart sank as I read the news. From the reporting you would think that the 17-year-old superstar’s goggles slipping down her face upon entry into the pool had cost Team USA a medal. They said things like, “The United States team was undone by an equipment mishap,” (Sport’s Illustrated) and, “The wardrobe malfunction cost the U.S. swim team the mixed relay,” (The Wrap). Tears streamed down my face as I imagined how hard this must be for our hometown athlete. What a tremendous amount of blame they were laying on her shoulders! I wanted to see the splits to understand the situation better. So, I did a little research.
When I looked at the actual numbers, I could feel the heat rising in my cheeks. My sadness turned to anger. While some news outlets (including the Seward Journal) were fair in their reporting on this event, most of the worldwide reporting got it dead wrong. At best, this was the result of innocent mistakes by journalists trying to make tight deadlines. At worst, it was a sinister distortion of the truth to serve as click-bait for the masses.
Here are the facts:
When Lydia dove into the pool, her lucky pink goggles fell halfway down her face. Despite this, she powered on and swam a time of 1:05.09, just .14 seconds shy of her gold medal finish time (1:04.95). This performance would have STILL seen her earn the gold medal in the individual event by .13 seconds over the silver medalist (Tatjana Schoenmaker - 1:05.22). Her relay split was only .27 seconds shy of the Olympic record (Tatjana Shoenmaker - 1:04.82), and it was a mere .96 seconds short of the world record (Lily King – 1:04.13). As late as 2009, it would have made her the world record holder (Leisel Jones held the honor with a time of 1:05.09 until July 27, 2009).
The reporting on this event focused on the goggles incident as though it precipitated the U.S. team’s medal loss. But once again, the numbers tell a different story. Team USA finished in fifth place with a time of 3:40.58. This left them 3.00 seconds out of gold medal contention (Great Britain – 3:37.58) and 1.30 seconds behind the fourth-place finisher (Italy – 3:39.28). This means that even if Lydia had smashed the world record (which I cannot wait to watch her do!), the U.S. team would still have finished fifth. I say none of this to disparage the other swimmers in the relay. All of these elite athletes were incredible. Despite what commentators called a “disappointing” result, their team finish still ranks number 10 of all time.
The story of Lydia Jacoby’s performance in the Mixed 4x100m Medley Relay at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games is not a story of tragedy; it is a story of triumph! It is a story of pushing through adversity. It is a testament to her incredible training and talent. I want to hang a motivational poster on my wall with that now-iconic photo of her goggles in her mouth that reads “PERSEVERANCE” or “DETERMINATION” or “When life gives you lemons, swim a gold medal split”.
Lydia went on to put up another incredible time of 1:05:03 on Saturday in the Women’s 4x100m Medley Relay. She took her team from third to first during the second leg of the relay. In the end, Team USA earned the silver medal!
I could not be any more impressed with this young woman. She shocked the world with her Olympic performance. To say that Seward is excited for her is an understatement. She left for Tokyo with her entire hometown rooting for her, and now she is coming home with a gold, a silver, and absolutely nothing to be ashamed of.