Olympic Gold Medalist Lydia Jacoby Also Plays Bluegrass

Well this is super cool. American Olympic swimmer Lydia Jacoby from Alaska has been a fan favorite over the last week or so, surprisingly taking home the Gold Medal for the United States in the 100 meter Breaststroke on July 27th, making the 17-year-old the first ever Alaskan to win a Gold Medal in the summer games, and only the 10th Alaskan to ever compete. She’s also one of the youngest swimmers ever to win Gold. She also helped win Silver in the 4×100 medley relay.

Lydia Jacoby later made headlines during the 4×100 mixed relay when she dove into the pool for the breaststroke portion of the race, and had to fight through her goggles slipping down from her eyes, and right to in front of her mouth and face. She could have given up entirely or stopped to fix them, but instead soldiered on and still turned in a decent relay time. The U.S.A. team ended up finishing 5th in the race.

But that’s not all that’s remarkable about this Alaskan wunderkind. She’s also been playing the bass fiddle and singing for the last six years in a bluegrass outfit in Anchorage called the Snow River String Band who’ve performed at the Anchorage Folk Festival and other places in Alaska. Lydia Jacoby also plays guitar.

“In my town [of Seward], we used to have a bluegrass camp for kids every summer,” Jacoby explained in an Olympic press conference after winning Gold. “There’s a group of us that really enjoyed it, so our parents kind of brought us together. We played together for five or six years at different festivals in Alaska.”

Since the revelation, folks have been looking up Lydia Jacoby and the Snow River String Band videos online. It’s no Billy Strings, but it’s not half bad for a young woman who’s spent hours and hours in the pool training for the Olympics for years.

The Snow River String Band is officially no more now that the respective members have upcoming college commitments, and of course Lydia Jacoby is in Tokyo at the moment. But one interesting note is that Jacoby has committed to attending the University of Texas in Austin starting in the Fall of 2022 to compete on the University’s swim team, and is also interested in studying fashion design. With the robust (though under siege) music scene in Austin, don’t be surprised if she continues to pursue her musical passion in the coming years as well.

“I still enjoy playing music,” she says. “It’s a great thing to do.”

So who knows, perhaps in the future Olympic Gold Medalist Lydia Jacoby may be appearing at a bluegrass festival near you. She’s a great example of how music and bluegrass specifically is a great way to build character and discipline in young people in ways that can help them beyond plucking on wood and wire.

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