Swedish sprint star Sarah Sjostrom is skipping this year’s FINA World Cup Series and Short Course World Championships to rest in preparation for the 2023 World Championships and 2024 Paris Olympics.
Sjostrom’s absence will be felt as the 29-year-old world record holder was the overall winner of the World Cup Series in 2018 and 2019. Her 63 career World Cup victories rank fifth all-time among female swimmers. At last year’s Short Course World Championships in Abu Dhabi, she brought home seven medals — three gold, three silver, and a bronze — marking her first hardware from a major international short course meet. Sjostrom had opted out of the Short Course World Championships in both 2016 and 2018.
“I need an autumn with some peace and quiet before the World Championships and the Olympics,” the four-time Olympian told Swedish media.
In just over a year since last summer, Sjostrom has competed at five major international meets: the Tokyo Olympics, 2021 European Short Course Championships, Short Course World Championships, 2022 European Championships, and World Championships most recently in June.
On top of that, Sjostrom also finished last year’s ISL season as the season MVP, Finals MVP, and top overall earner. Still, she showed no signs of slowing down this summer, winning gold medals in the 50 freestyle and 50 butterfly at this year’s World and European Championships. In total, she hauled in eight medals this year — three at Worlds (two golds and a silver) and five at Euros (three golds, a silver, and a bronze). In the process, she became the most decorated female swimmer ever at Worlds (only Michael Phelps has won more) and the most decorated swimmer — man or woman — at Euros.
Now it’s time for Sjostrom to enjoy a well-deserved break.
“I’ve done more championships in this time than I usually do in three years,” Sjostrom said. “Then there is the World Championships in long course next summer and the Olympics after that so I have decided that I will take this autumn and just rest a bit.”
Sjostrom said her training is more exhausting than the competitions themselves, both physically and mentally. She’s hoping that taking the rest of the year off will keep her feeling fresh in the future, even beyond Paris 2024. Sjostrom recently set a goal of swimming at the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles. Only four swimmers in history have competed at six different Olympics.
“Actually, the competitions themselves are not a problem, but it is to constantly expose yourself to the training you need to do and have a plan for your training for a very long time,” Sjostrom said. “It takes a lot out of you.
“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,” she added. “I need to have the energy and feel ready to go.”
Sjostrom’s continued success makes it easy to forget that her career was jeopardized by a broken elbow just about 18 months ago. But she proved she’s still in her prime by battling back to claim an Olympic silver medal in the 50 free just a few months later.
“It’s been crazy,” she said. “It’s been a challenge to first recover from injury and get to the Olympics and then compete intensely last autumn and this summer. But it’s been a lot of fun. It’s really gone better than expected.”
Sjostrom believes her best times are still ahead of her in the 50 free.
“I still have a bit to give and I can probably swim faster than I have done before, especially in the 50-meter freestyle,” she said.
Right now, Sjostrom doesn’t have a training schedule. She doesn’t know when her next competition will be, but she expects to enter the Stockholm Open next April.
“I don’t have a training schedule,” Sjostrom said. “I train when I feel like it and don’t push my body when it doesn’t feel good. Maybe I’ll show up at the World Championships (in November) as well.
“I don’t know when the next competition will be, maybe something smaller in February,” she added. “Then there’s the Swim Open (Stockholm in April). So I’m pretty relaxed now until April.”
Sjostrom is set to make her return to major international competition next July at the 2023 World Championships in Fukuoka, Japan.