Sarah Sjostrom Is Unanimous Choice As European Female Swimmer Of the Year (See Full Voting)


Sarah Sjostrom Is Unanimous Choice As European Female Swimmer Of the Year

The end of the year belonged to Sarah Sjostrom, the person. Her days were not dictated by training sessions and impending competitions. There were no pre-determined wakeups. Rather, the Swedish superstar adhered to a schedule—beginning in the fall—that was flexible and free of the demands that have long defined her career as a professional athlete.

When Sjostrom announced she was taking an autumn break, she backed her decision with sound reasoning. Not only had she already logged a busy 2022 campaign, but she also wanted to be rested—physically and mentally—for the next two major international meets on her schedule: the 2023 World Championships in Fukuoka, Japan and the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.

“The competitions are not a problem,” Sjostrom said as her hiatus began. “The hard part is to constantly expose yourself to the training you need to do and have a plan for your training for a very long time. It takes a lot out of you. But I know that’s what I’m going to have to do if I’m going to be able to swim as fast as I want to when it comes to the World Championships and the Olympics. I need to have the energy and feel ready to go.”

Before the 29-year-old closed the door on 2022, she produced the latest in a long line of standout seasons. At the World Championships in Budapest and European Championships in Rome, Sjostrom claimed titles in the 50 meter freestyle and 50 butterfly, with a silver medal added in the 100 freestyle at the World Champs. More, she contributed to several medal-winning Swedish relays.

Sjostrom’s body of work made her the easy choice for Female European Swimmer of the Year accolades, and she secured all 11 first-place votes in the category, worth 55 points. This year’s honor marks the fifth time Sjostrom has been named European Swimmer of the Year. She was followed in the voting by Italian breaststroker Benedetta Pilato (41 points) and Lithuania’s Ruta Meiltutyte (32 points), who enjoyed a career rejuvenation.

The World Championships jumpstarted Sjostrom’s sterling summer. The only woman in history to crack the 25-second barrier in the event, Sjostrom mined gold in the 50 butterfly in 24.95, an effort that handed her a convincing decision over silver medalist Melanie Henique (25.31) of France. Sjostrom also grabbed the title in the 50 freestyle, her 23.98 outing supplying a comfortable margin over runner-up Kasia Wasick of Poland, who went 24.18. A swim of 52.80 in the 100 freestyle handed the Swede the silver medal behind Australian upstart Mollie O’Callaghan (52.67).

A few weeks later, Sjostrom blasted her competition at the European Champs, registering a quicker time in the 50 freestyle (23.91) than she managed at Worlds. In the 50 butterfly, she again broke the 25-second threshold with a swim of 24.96. Along with three relay medals, Sjostrom increased her career tally to 28 podium appearances at Euros, a total that broke the previous career record of 26 medals by legendary sprinter Alexander Popov of Russia.

The one question mark raised by Sjostrom’s season is whether she will return to the 100 butterfly for the next editions of the World Champs and Olympics. That event, in which Sjostrom is the world record holder, is the discipline that launched her career. If she decides she is done with the event, the primary focus for Paris will be the sprint freestyles.

Although she is approaching 30 years old, Sjostrom is confident her best days are not in the past. “I still have a bit to give, and I can probably swim faster than I have done before,” she said.

1. SARAH SJOSTROM, Sweden (11) 55
2. Benedetta Pilato, Italy 41
3. Ruta Meilutyte, Lithuania 32
4. Simona Quadarella, Italy 17
5. Marie Wattel, France 12
(First-place votes in parentheses)