Sarah Sjostrom On Extending Her Career ‘For Many, Many Years’ With A Sprint Focus

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Sarah Sjostrom: Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Sarah Sjostrom has already spent 12 years at the top of her sport and ominously for her rivals, the Olympic 100 fly champion believes focusing on the 50m sprints will extend her career for some time yet.

The Swede made her first trip to the international podium at the 2008 European Championships in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, where she won the 100m butterfly and bronze with the 4x100m free at the age of 14.

That was the start of the medal rush which has seen Sjostrom pay three visits to the Olympic podium – with a trip to the top step following the 100 fly at Rio 2016 – eight world and 14 European titles.

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Sarah Sjostrom representing Energy Standard in the ISL. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Sjostrom will be 27 when she competes at Tokyo in 2021 and, she believes, with plenty more years ahead by reducing the amount she takes on in competition and with her eyes on the one-length sprints.

She told Swimming World:

“I’ll be 27 in the summer so I am still very young. My athlete career has been very long – if I am nearly 27 I have been doing really, really hard work for over 12 years so of course my body is getting tired sometimes but I definitely see many, many years. Especially now that the sport of swimming is getting more exciting with ISL and everything.

“I think I am going to be more of a 50 swimmer.

“You need to really do some heavy lifting and also 100% focus when you do all the swimming work.

“At the moment my training is similar to a distance programme: I am doing a lot of really long metres and fast swimming for a long time.

“I am still a good sprinter but to find a way to only focus on 50 fly and 50 free would be interesting.

“I am still really good at short course so I am excited for ISL and I think the 50s are my favourite.”

She added:

“Maybe I can handle another 12 years but maybe I won’t go to World Champs and win five medals every time any more: I think my body is starting to feel a little sore sometimes.

“Maybe when I go to world champs or Olympics sometimes I’ll do one or two events and then I’ll continue even longer.”

Sjostrom has been training as normal in Sweden where there has been no coronavirus lockdown but instead commonsense has been encouraged and guidance issued.

Speaking from her apartment in Stockholm, Sjostrom reflected on her 12 years at the top of her sport and the importance of being surrounded by the right people.

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Sarah Sjostrom at the 2017 World Championships. Photo Courtesy: SIPA USA

“It’s crazy how fast time goes. I think it’s because I had a lot of good people around me: a lot of good coaches, good support from the Swedish Olympic committee and federation and Energy Standard the last couple of years.

“I have been working a lot with Johan Wallberg since 2017 and he is a really good coach and also James (Gibson, Energy Standard coach) and they really know how to think long-term.

“It’s not just all-out, train really hard for two years and just kill my body.

“It’s long-term – they are thinking how can my body handle all the training? I think it’s a balance also between recovery and hard work and I think I am really good at that: recovering when I need to.

“I think it’s a lot of talent also and I need to thank my parents for the genes and everything I have!”

Sjostrom has looked around at her Energy Standard training mates who are scattered across the planet from Durban, South Africa, to Plymouth in south-west England.

Many have had to improvise in order to train such as Ben Proud making his own concrete bar bells.

Sjostrom though has carried on as per usual albeit with no competition to plan for on the horizon.

Instead, she is now spending time studying to become a personal trainer.

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Sarah Sjostrom – Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

She said:

“I started to study this week because I thought I needed a new challenge. I haven’t studied for 10 years but I started studying to get a licence as a personal trainer so I can be my own gym coach.

“And also (to be) a health advisor and nutritionist so I am trying to get through that now. It is really difficult as I haven’t studied for a long time. I really enjoy it: it will be a really busy summer for me with all the studies.

“At the moment it’s a lot of online courses so I’ve been reading a lot but soon I will also start to do the more practical things. But that will take a lot of time: I’m not going to have time to do any training those weeks. It would have been a busy summer anyway but a different kind of busy than I was expecting.

“I’m training now but in the summer I am going to take some time off and focus on my education and then get back to training again.

“I am very excited to learn more about gym programmes and maybe help other swimmers sometimes if they need some advice or help. I love helping people but I think if I am a licensed personal trainer it will be easier to give advice if I need to.”

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