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US swimmer Lydia Jacoby, 17, wins surprise gold medal in 100-meter breaststroke at Tokyo Olympics

Teen sensation Lydia Jacoby became the first American woman to strike gold in the Tokyo Olympic pool after winning the final of the women's 100-meter breaststroke at the 2020 Summer Olympics

Teen sensation Lydia Jacoby became the first American woman to strike gold in the Tokyo Olympic pool on Tuesday.

The 17-year-old from Alaska saw off the challenge of reigning champion and fellow American Lilly King who settled for bronze.

Jacoby, from Seward, was crowned the winner of the 100-meter breaststroke and beat Tatjana Schoenmaker of South Africa, who took silver, and Team USA's Lilly King, who took bronze.

Jacoby was just over a quarter of a second faster than her South African rival and touched home in 1.04.95.

'I was definitely racing for a medal, it was crazy,' Jacoby said. 'I knew I had it in me, but I wasn’t really expecting a gold medal. When I looked up at the scoreboard it was insane.’

Jacoby is the first US swimmer from Alaska to win an Olympic medal and only the 10th Olympian in history to hail from the state. She says this victory is 'huge' for herself, her country and her home state.

'It is huge. A lot of big-name swimmers come from big powerhouse clubs,' she said. ‘But coming from a small club and a state with such a small population shows that you can do it no matter where you are from.

 Jacoby, who lives around 130 miles from Alaska’s largest city, told how the pandemic had impacted on her preparations to challenge for gold in Japan and how she began swimming.

‘I started swimming competitively when I was six. My parents put me on my club team at our local town.

'They wanted me to be safe in the water and at first I did it as a fun thing to do with my friends.

'When I was about 12, I set my first state record, and that is when I first realised I excelled in swimming and it is something that I wanted to do.’

She added: ''I had to take two months off due to Covid when it (the pandemic) first started.

'I was then able to train with the team in Anchorage which is about two hours from my house. I have continued to go back and forth since then.

'Having this extra year, after such a hard year for the world, it feels extra special to be an Olympian.”

She revealed her semi-final was more nerve-racking than her gold medal swim.

'To be honest, I was a lot more nervous going into semifinals than I was for this race. I definitely let my nerves get the better of me going into yesterday morning.

'I just tried to channel that energy in a more positive way and I was able to sleep really well last night.'

In a tweet announcing her win Team USA noted that there is only one 50-meter pool in Jacoby's entire home state of Alaska - where her family were seen cheering after she touched the wall. 

Footage shared on Twitter of the watch party in her hometown shows her classmates and members of the community cheering and jumping with joy as she secured the win. 

A look of shock washed over Jacoby's face when she realized she won the gold

USA's Jacoby on her way to winning the women's 100-meter breaststroke

Jacoby's stunning win salvaged what had been a disappointing morning for the American team. 

The US had only managed a pair of bronze medals before the high schooler came through.

Jacoby was only third at the turn, trailing Schoenmaker and King. But, with her head bobbing furiously out of the water, the teenager surged past King and glided past the South African on the final two strokes to touch first.

Looking at the scoreboard with a bit of disbelief, the enormity of her accomplishment finally hit when Schoenmaker reached across the lane rope for a hug. Then it was King bounding over from two lanes away to congratulate America's new breaststroke queen.

Jacoby says competing in the Olympics has been a life-changing experience.

'Being fully immersed with such an amazing group of people for the last three weeks has been amazing and very inspirational,' she shared.  

Jacoby (middle), second-placed South Africa's Tatjana Schoenmaker (left) and third-placed USA's Lilly King (center) receive their medals after the final of the women's 100-meter breaststroke

Lydia Jacoby, of the United States, waves to the crowd after winning the final of the women's 100-meter breaststroke at the 2020 Summer Olympics on Tuesday in Tokyo, Japan

Jacoby (left), second-placed South Africa's Tatjana Schoenmaker (right) and third-placed USA's Lilly King (center) celebrate after the final of the women's 100-meter breaststroke

Jacoby was just over a quarter of a second faster than her South African rival and touched home in 1.04.95

Jacoby began swimming at age six with the Tsunami Swim Club in Seward.

He parents are both licensed boat captains. The family owns a small sail boat they use to explore the Resurrection Bay on the Kenai Peninsula of Alaska.

She took swimming lessons as a child because much of her family's life is spent around water.

'Most kids in Seward go through the swim team at some point, because living in a maritime community, it's important. I really enjoyed it.

'I had a big group of friends who did it. When I got a little older, I started winning, and I liked it and wanted to keep doing it, and here I am' she said. 

Jacoby waves after winning the final of the women's 100-meter breaststroke 

Jacoby (left) is embraced by silver medalist Tatjana Schoenmaker of South Africa

On the men's side, the US team lost a backstroke race at the Olympics for the first time since 1992.

Russia swept the top two spots in the 100-meter back Tuesday, with Evgeny Rylov claiming the gold medal in 51.98 and teammate Kliment Kolesnikov taking the silver in 52.00.

Defending Olympic champion Ryan Murphy settled for the bronze in 52.19.

It was the first backstroke defeat for the US men at the Olympics since the Barcelona Games. 

They won 12 straight golds at the last six Olympics, including Murphy's sweep of the 100 and 200 back at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Jacoby (left) celebrates after winning the final of the women's 100-meter breaststroke with Tatjana Schoenmaker, of South Africa, and Lilly King, of the United States

Jacoby (pictured), the first US swimmer from Alaska to win an Olympic medal, says competing at the Olympics and 'being fully immersed with such an amazing group of people for the last three weeks has been amazing and very inspirational'

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