STOCKHOLM, Sweden, February 5. WORLD champion Therese Alshammar is expecting her first child, but the news is not keeping the 35-year-old out of the sport.
Alshammar, who won the 50 free long course world title in 2011, announced today in an interview with Swedish TV station SVT that she will be a first-time mother with coach and partner Johan Wallberg. With the due date sometime in June, it means the Swedish superstar will not get the chance to defend her world title in Barcelona in July.
“I've got a new challenge and a different perspective on life,” she said.
But that new challenge will not trump what she calls “a longing to be the fastest in the world,” and she expects to find herself in the race pool soon. Alshammar has always been a standout in the FINA World Cup, winning the overall title in 2010 and 2011. She only competed in the first three meets of the 2012 series, which in hindsight was a key sign that she was pregnant. Alshammar could make her return to racing in the 2013 World Cup this fall, earning prize money that could help pay for the numerous expenses that come with being a new mother.
The news that Alshammar is not ready to end her career means we could see the Swede extend her immense portfolio that goes all the way back to the late 1990s, when she competed for the Nebraska Cornhuskers and qualified for the 1996 Olympics. But really made an impact in 2000, when she won silver medals in the 50 and 100 freestyles, and helped Sweden win the bronze in the 400 free relay.
Alshammar has been on four Olympic rosters for Sweden, making the final of the 50 free in 2004 and causing a stir at the 2008 Olympics, when her bodysuit ripped just before the 50 free semifinals. Dara Torres succeeded in getting the heat delayed while Alshammar changed into a new suit. Unfortunately, Alshammar did not make it into the final.
Just before the start of the 2012 Olympics, Alshammar suffered a pinched nerve and had to sit out the 400 free relay. Fortunately, she was able to compete in the 50 freestyle, finishing in sixth place.
Watch Alshammar's interview on SVT (in Swedish):
Having a baby can be a good luck charm for a female swimmer. Dara Torres gave birth in 2006 and made her fifth Olympic team in 2008, where she won three silver medals. Amanda Beard made her fourth Olympic team in 2008 after giving birth to her son, and Marleen Veldhuis earned a bronze medal in the 50 free at last summer's Olympics after giving birth in 2010.