I live and write on Lingít Aaní, and gratefully acknowledge the past, present and future caretakers of this beautiful place, the Jilkaat Kwaan and Jilkoot Kwaan.

Oh Lydia Jacoby, Alaska’s first gold medal swimmer, you made me cry I was so happy watching you win last night! (My pictures are not great, they came right off our TV which is not that great either.) The Anchorage Daily News reporter Beth Bragg has been covering the Seward teenager’s Olympic quest so well– go there to read her stories– , that I was ready,  and we were watching– my daughters and our  little  Haines Dolphins swim team grandaughters were too—

I was hoping Lydia would make the final, and then I was hoping she would at least do okay– but really I was hoping she’d win the gold. Who doesn’t wish that? And it seemed possible. But I am used to wishing for more and settling for less, and of course “less” in this case is all relative. I mean, it’s the Olympics, so that’s a victory. My equestrian champion sister-in-law (Karen Lende O’Connor) was in five Olympics, and for the first one, back years ago, in Seoul, we held a watch party in our old apartment above the lumberyard, and we saw her for about a half a second and then the horse missed a jump and that was it. It’s one moment when all goes well, or not. That’s the Olympics. And in swimming? That moment is hundreds of a second. It is hard to imagine the less than a blink between the medalists, and yet when I swim a lap– half of Lydia’s 100 meter swim–  in about the same time it takes her to go twice that far, it feels like a longer time than a minute.  Einstein was no dummy.

I know all about awards not being the measure of a person. It’s what’s inside that matters– the stuff that got her to this place. The parents, the talent, the coaches, the friends, the town she grew up in, all those  noisy swim meets and knocking knees and magic marker notes on her arm, and especially the work– the  hours swimming back and forth in the pool in Seward. Her pool is on the same Alaska seasonal schedule as the one in Haines, closed in the summer open in the winter, making sense to no one but we Alaskans, and even then not quite. (I really wish ours we open in the summer, too.) The theory is that we are too busy to swim when the sun is out, and it does cost a lot to run an indoor pool, and it’s better to have the option for indoor recreation in the long, dark winter months.  That’s why Lydia is not used to swimming year ’round. Can any other Olympian say that? I doubt it.

What floors me is that a 17 year-old from a town not much bigger than Haines has won a gold medal in swimming. Gold! What are the odds of this? And she plays the stand-up bass and sings in a bluegrass band (barefoot, naturally).She will be senior at Seward High next year. She is just so nice and normal. One of us. (Well except for the grit it takes to be an Olympic champion, and that is the best kind of exceptional Alaskan, if you ask me.)

Anyway, can you tell how proud I am?  I wanted to say, as the late Gov. Walter and Ermalee Hickel used to say:  Hip-hip hooray. It’s a wonderful day.