Doha 24, Euro Recap Day7: Sjostrom Proud To “Manage All The Pressure In The World” In 50 FL


“I do not know why everyone is saying it is easy or that it looked easy,” said Sarah Sjostrom after her incredible sixth-straight win in the women’s 50 butterfly at the World Championships.

The 30-year-old Swedish super star is approaching nearly a decade of dominance in this event. To find a different World Champion, you’d have to look all the way back to 2013 Worlds in Barcelona when Denmark’s Jeanette Ottesen won (25.24). Sjostrom didn’t race the event at those championships, instead winning the 100 fly and picking up silver in the 100 free.

In 2014, Sjostrom set the world record at a blistering 24.43. And since 2015 Worlds, she’s been unstoppable at the event’s highest level. She earned her historic gold in 24.63, which is her third-fastest swim and the third-fastest performance all-time. After today’s final, she owns the top 24 times in the event’s history.

But with dominance has come pressure. “Imagine going in, everyone is expecting you to win, if you do not, it is a disaster. So it is not easy to do that…it is actually one of the hardest things you can do,” Sjostrom shared after her race, detailing what it’s like for her to walk out for the final.

“It’s easy to win the first time. It is quite easy to win the second time, then it just gets harder and harder every time and it is tough to keep going and handling [sic] the pressure.”

Sjostrom said that she was happy with the time, calling it a “really good race” but she seemed most proud of the way that she was able to manage herself and her expectations. “I am proud that I was able to prove to myself and that I can manage all the pressure in the world,” she explained.

She’s not out of the hot seat quite yet. On the last day of the 2024 World Championships, she’ll compete for her fourth career and second-straight gold in the 50 freestyle. Less than a year removed from breaking her own world record in the event, she’s positioned herself well for another title. Fresh off the 50 fly medal ceremony, she logged 23.90 to lead the way into the final as the only woman under the 24 second barrier.

So there will undoubtedly still be pressure tomorrow. But today, Sjostrom continued to show why she’s one of the best sprinters in swimming’s history. She’s been a dominant force for almost a decade. And by proving to herself that she’s able to consistently handle the pressure that’s come with being at the top of the field, she’s showing exactly why she’s been there for so long.

Quick Hits

  • It was an all European podium in the men’s 100 fly. Teenager Diogo Matos Ribeiro continued his impressive performance in Doha, claiming his second gold medal of the meet. It looked like the win was going to Nyls Korstanje, who led the race until the closing meters. But Ribeiro put his head down and charged. Korstanje had a bad finish and Ribeiro was right there to take advantage, winning in a new Portugese record of 51.17. He’d brought the record to 51.30 in the semifinals. Simon Bucher and Jakub Majerski joined Ribeiro in passing Korstanje in the race’s closing meters, giving Austria their second medal and Poland their first of these championships.
  • In the upset of the meet, Vladyslav Bukhov recovered from a bad start to win the men’s 50 freestyle, beating the last two world champions Cameron McEvoy and Ben Proud. Bukhov was slower than his 21.38 Ukrainian record from the semifinals, though 21.44 was enough to out-touch McEvoy by a hundredth. It’s Ukraine’s first medal at these Worlds and the first of Bukhov’s career.
  • Sjostrom was the only one sub-24 seconds in the women’s 50 free semifinals but Kasia Wasick came close to breaking that barrier for the first time in her career. Wasick posted 24.01 to win the first semifinal, setting a new Polish record in the process. The old standard was the 24.11 she swam in the semis of 2022 Worlds.
  • After disappointments earlier in the meet, both Ruta Meilutyte and Benedetta Pilato got redemption in the women’s 50 breaststroke. They were the last two 100 breaststroke world champions heading into the meet, but neither made it to the Doha final after Meilutyte missed semis and Pilato was locked out in 9th. Both got back on track by qualifying for the 50 breast final. Meilutyte, the world record holder, claimed the top seed with a 29.42, well ahead of 2nd seed Tang Qianting’s 29.80. Pilato also cracked 30 seconds, qualifying 3rd in 29.91.
  • Italy’s Simona Quadarella and Germany’s Isabel Gose treated us to an amazing race in the women’s 800 freestyle. Neither could shake the other and it came down to the touch as Quadarella completed the distance double, beating Gose by just .09 seconds. Quadarella is responsible for both of Italy’s gold at this meet and Gose has medaled in the 400/800/1500, making her the driving force of Germany’s medal haul at this meet.

Other Continental and National Records

  • In the heats of the women’s 50 breaststroke, Silje Slyngstadli broke her Norwegian record. Slyngstadli had set her standard of 30.91 at the LEN European U23 Games back in August 2023. She lowered it to 30.86 here in Doha, slicing five-hundredths off the mark.

European Medal Table Thru Day 7

Nation Gold Silver Bronze Total
Netherlands 3 2 5
Italy 2 5 2 9
Portugal 2 2
Germany 1 1 3 5
Great Britain 1 1 3 5
Spain 1 1 2
Sweden 1 1 2
Ukraine 1 1
Ireland 1 1
Austria 1 1 2
Switzerland 1 1
Lithuania 1 1
Denmark 1 1
France 1 1
Greece 1 1
Hungary 1 1
Bosnia and Herzegovina 1 1
Poland 1 1

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2 months ago

There will be intense pressure for the Paris 50 free, but I am honestly surprised that she felt any pressure for the Doha 50 fly. She should have been relaxed and supremely confident. It is barely a competition.

2 months ago

You’d be a bloody rich man if you’d just done Sjostrom to win, one of Henique/Osman to medal at Worlds for the past decade. We’ve had a decade of incredible dominance from Sarah, but also incredible predictability in the women’s 50fl behind her.

Mr Piano
2 months ago

Ian Thorpe also talked about this pressure. When you’re seen as unbeatable, with a massive winning streak sailing at your feet, each additional win can only add to that burden.

A second place finish becomes a disastrous failure. A first place finish becomes taken for granted and is treated as inevitable, or the bare minimum for the athlete to clear. Anything else would have been disappointment.

About Sophie Kaufman

Sophie Kaufman

Sophie grew up in Boston, Massachusetts, which means yes, she does root for the Bruins, but try not to hold that against her. At 9, she joined her local club team because her best friend convinced her it would be fun. Shoulder surgery ended her competitive swimming days long ago, …

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