Lydia Jacoby misses out on Tokyo Olympic gold in Paris after surprise: 'It hasn't fully sunk in yet'

INDIANAPOLIS — Lydia Jacoby looked up in bewilderment. Just 27 hundredths of a second separated her from second place to Emma Weber in the women's 100m breaststroke final, but the two might as well have been two continents apart.

Experienced swimmers often describe the U.S. Olympic Trials as the toughest swimming competition in the world – tougher than the Olympic Games themselves. In some events, the third fastest American can be the third best swimmer in the world. But only the top two make Team USA.

That razor-thin margin yields the biggest stakes; it's make or break, all or nothing.

And Jacoby ended up with nothing, just three years removed from shocking himself and the world by winning gold in Tokyo at the same event. On Tuesday morning, she announced she had dropped the 200m breaststroke, meaning her race was over. The 20-year-old is not going to Paris.

“I feel strangely fine,” Jacoby said on Tuesday. “I don't think it has fully sunk in yet. I definitely cried a little last night, but I'm doing pretty well today. I'm sure there will be a lot of time to process emotions in the coming weeks and I will try to put together some fun things to look forward to this summer.”

Two-time gold medalist Lilly King, who took gold at the event in Rio de Janeiro, reached first place in 1:05.43 on Monday evening. Weber's second-place finish was a shock, one of the real upsets of the race so far. After King congratulated Weber, she swam over to Jacoby to hug him.

“My heart absolutely breaks for her,” King said. “But on the other hand, what an achievement by Emma Weber – and that is exactly how this meeting is going. It will make your career and break your career in a minute. It is the most difficult meeting in the world. It's a lot harder than the Olympics in my opinion.

“I hope she can move forward from this, and I support her always.”

In recent months, Jacoby opened up about the severe depression she experienced after winning that gold medal in Tokyo. She felt like everyone wanted something from her, and she couldn't say no. She didn't know which people around her actually cared about her well-being and which ones just wanted to be associated with a gold medalist. There were days and weeks when she wouldn't get out of bed at home in Alaska.

“I felt like my identity was locked up in the sport,” Jacoby said Tuesday. “The most important thing for me lately is (remembering) that being a swimmer is something I do. It's not something that I am. I have so many interests and passions. I have great friends and family outside of the sport. Remembering those things is a great asset to me.

“A lot of people outside the sport see this and think that's it. It's important that people realize: yes, this is something I do, and I have invested a lot in it. Obviously, I put a lot of emotion into this, and it's pretty devastating. But in the end it won't change my life.”


Lydia Jacoby and Lilly King embrace after the 100-meter breaststroke final at the U.S. Olympic Trials. Jacoby, the Tokyo gold medalist, did not qualify for Paris. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Jacoby said she seriously considered quitting swimming after Tokyo and even had doubts at times over the past year whether she wanted to swim competitively. She is happy that, despite the disappointing results, she stuck with the sport and started swimming here.

Jacoby said she was frustrated with her performance here at Lucas Oil Stadium. Her time of 1:06.37 was more than a full second slower than her Olympic qualifying time at trials in 2021. She had trained well and she is disappointed that her performance on Monday did not match what she put into the event. . Jacoby said she had focused all her training on the 100-meter breaststroke and planned to do the 200 anyway.

“I don't feel like I put together a dive that was a good representation of what I can do, and that's the most frustrating part for me,” Jacoby said.

She said she plans to take a break from swimming to “get to a better place with where I am in my life outside of swimming and then re-approach the sport in a healthy way for myself.” She doesn't think she's completely done with the sport yet, nor does she think the sport is done with her.

But that's in the long term. At this point, Jacoby isn't sure if she'll see the event on television next month. She's not sure she can bear it, now that she's at home on the wrong continent, while her friends and former teammates wear red, white and blue.

“I feel like I haven't really processed the fact that I'm not going to swim there yet,” Jacoby said. “I'm honestly not sure I want to watch my event. It's something I haven't really thought about much. But the people who make up the team – I've been crying like this past week, tears of joy for all my friends who make up the team… so I'm definitely looking forward to seeing everyone do great things in Paris.

“It will definitely be tough if I'm not there, but I wish them all the best.”

go deeper

GO DEEPER

Regan Smith regains WR in women's 100m backstroke at Olympic trials

(Top photo: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

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