arena has announced the signing of 17-year-old phenom and Olympic breaststroke champion, Lydia Jacoby, the brand’s first sponsorship deal under the new NCAA NIL (name, image and likeness) rules that came into effect on July 1st, 2021.
On July 27th, 2021, the teenage Alaska native stunned the swimming world by coming from behind to win Gold in the Olympic 100m breaststroke, beating both the current world record holder and the strong favorite for the title. It was the culmination of a meteoric rise through the elite swimming ranks that started back at the USA Swimming Winter Nationals in 2018, when Lydia first made the cut for US Olympic Swimming Trials at just 14 years old.
Lydia was a leap-year baby, born in Anchorage on February 29th, 2004, and raised in the small seaside town of Seward (pop. 2,796) that her family has called home for the past 30 years. She started swimming at the age of 6 with her local swim team, the Seward Tsunami Swim Club, and by the time she was 12, she had broken her first Alaska state record. She continued breaking state records and winning state titles with the Seward High School swim team and became junior national champion in the 100 breaststroke at the USA Swimming Junior National Championships in 2019.
With the postponement of the Olympics due to the Covid pandemic, Lydia’s training was severely restricted when her home pool closed for nearly 6 months from March to September of 2020. She and her father, with the help of her coach Solomon D’Amico, had to build a makeshift weight rack at home until a facility in Anchorage began to partially reopen in May of 2020, 2.5 hours and 120 miles from Seward, when her family rented an apartment in the hopes of restoring some degree of normalcy to an otherwise chaotic training schedule.
Undeterred by these challenges, she returned to the pool faster than ever, consistently posting personal bests, and breaking National Age Group records twice at the Olympic Trials in Omaha, where she finished second in the 100m breaststroke to become the first Alaskan swimmer in history to make the US Olympic Team.
Swimming in lane 3 in the Tokyo 100m breaststroke final, Lydia turned at the halfway stage in third place, before powering home in the last 20 meters with a time of 1:04.95. Over the course of just 3 years, she had slashed more than 6 seconds off her personal best, and in claiming her maiden Olympic title, became only the sixth female swimmer in history to break 1:05 in 100m breaststroke.
Four days later she swam the fastest breaststroke leg in the field by over half a second (1:05.03) as the US women’s 4×100 medley relay team picked up a silver medal. And in the 4×100 mixed medley relay, she swam the second fastest time of her life despite an equipment malfunction within the first few meters of her race when her goggles slipped down her face diving off the block; the US team finished fifth.
Support for Lydia across Alaska was passionate, none more so than in her hometown of Seward, where various “Go Lydia” watch parties erupted as she touched the wall first in her Olympic breaststroke victory. Upon her return home, she was greeted by adoring fans and celebrated with a parade. Following the euphoria of her Tokyo triumph, she has now turned her sights to the FINA World Short Course Championships in Abu Dhabi from December 16-21, and then it will be back to the books, as she completes her high school senior year. Following that, the University of Texas in Austin awaits, along with coach Carol Capitani and the Women’s Longhorn Swimming Team, a program sponsored by arena.
Standout performances at the highest level tend to garner recognition, and Lydia’s are no different – she has been nominated for three Golden Goggles Awards, USA Swimming’s annual ceremony celebrating the swimming year: Breakout Performer of the Year, Female Race of the Year, and Female Athlete of the Year. In a career that has only just begun, it seems likely that these will be the first of many more.
“The last year has been incredible, full of big moments like winning Olympic Gold,” said Lydia. “I’m so thrilled to continue this amazing time in my life by signing with arena. In addition to having products I love and use, it’s a dream come true to be working with such a wonderful team and company. I can’t wait to share the next chapter in my journey with the Arena family!”
“We couldn’t be happier to add Lydia to our team,” says Mark Pinger, GM of arena North America. “Clearly she is an extraordinary talent, as the past year has shown, but there’s also so much more to her: she’s determined, courageous, positive, upbeat, these attributes are part of her core, as they are with arena, and we couldn’t be more optimistic about this partnership. Having just had the amazing opportunity to spend time with Lydia and her family in her home town of Seward, we are equally excited about Lydia the person as we are about Lydia the swimmer and we believe she will be a great ambassador for the sport. Seeing her setup with access to only a 25 yard pool, we believe her future in swimming will be very bright and we consider ourselves lucky to be by her side and support her as we emerge from a period that has been very difficult for all.”