The “faster, higher, stronger” motto puts excellence in sport at the forefront of the Olympics, but anyone who follows the games knows a good backstory can put an athlete in the spotlight as easily as a perfect 10 on the vault or a world record on the track.
And so for all of those athletes whose bios include a version of “she was raised in a one-stoplight town,” we give you Lydia Jacoby of Seward.
Where the nearest stoplight is some 90 miles away in Soldotna.
For those whose bios detail a transition from one sport to another, we give you Alev Kelter of Eagle River, who achieved success in two NCAA Division I sports — soccer and ice hockey — before she ever scored a try in rugby.
Those are the backstories for the two Alaskans competing in the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
Both of them — Jacoby, 17, and Kelter, 30 — are in position to add to their storylines in a big way during the coming days, because both are medal contenders.
Jacoby, who still has another year of high school left, is the No. 2-ranked swimmer in the world in the women’s 100-meter breaststroke. She appears on just about every list of predicted medal winners.
Kelter is a two-time Olympian and Chugiak High graduate now based in San Diego, where she’s been a member of the USA Rugby women’s sevens team for several years. The Associated Press predicts a bronze medal for Kelter and her teammates, who were ranked second at the end of the 2019 season and fifth after the pandemic-disrupted 2020 season.
A third athlete with Alaska ties is also in Tokyo — Sagen Maddalena, a four-time NCAA All-American for the University of Alaska Fairbanks riflery team from 2014-18. Now a member of the U.S. Army, she’ll compete in the women’s 50-meter smallbore event.
Kelter will walk in Friday’s Opening Ceremonies but Jacoby won’t. Jacoby’s first race is early Sunday morning Alaska time, and the U.S. swim team wants athletes who compete Saturday or Sunday to be well rested, meaning they won’t attend the Opening Ceremonies.
Basketball player Sue Bird and baseball player Eddy Alvarez will be the flag carriers for Team USA at the ceremonies. They were chosen by a vote of athletes.
Every sport got to nominate a man and a woman to carry the flag, and Kelter was the candidate for women’s rugby.
“It was definitely an honor to be chosen,” Kelter said earlier this week from Japan. It was an honor that came with a homework assignment — either a two-minute video or a one-page essay saying why they should be selected. Kelter said she went with the written word, calling it “more my style.”
Kelter and her teammates play their first match in the 12-team women’s tournament on Wednesday, July 28, at 5 p.m. ADT. The Americans are in a pool with Australia, China and Japan, and how they fare in pool play will determine if they make it to the knockout round.
“It’s going to be anybody’s game after this year…
Read More: A swimmer and a rugby player will represent Alaska at the Tokyo Olympics, and 2021-07-22 03:24:31