Reigning Olympic 100 fly champ Sarah Sjostrom made a key revelation in an interview this week: her freestyle has seen more progress in her recovery from a broken elbow, and she may not even swim the 100 fly at the Tokyo Olympics.
Sjostrom broke her elbow slipping on ice back in February. The injury has created a major hurdle for the 27-year-old Swedish swimming star. She’s the reigning Olympic champion and world record-holder in the 100 fly as well as the world record-holder in both the 50 free and 100 free. She fell to silver in all three of those races at the 2019 World Championships, but remained one of the top gold medal contenders in all three events heading into the Tokyo Olympics.
Sjostrom needed surgery to repair her broken elbow, and hasn’t competed since the injury. She’s targeting the early-June Mare Nostrum series stop in Canet as her return to racing, but has previously said that she lost four centimeters (just under two inches) of muscle mass on her right arm, leading to an unbalanced stroke.
In an interview this week with Sverige Radio in Sweden, Sjostrom said she’s only been able to start swimming butterfly as of last week, and the strength imbalance has made the stroke particularly difficult to swim.
“I’m not as strong in my right arm, I lost almost four centimeters of muscle mass around my broken arm,” Sjostrom said, ina translation of the original Swedish. “It becomes very fluid and asymmetrical in butterfly swimming.”
Because of that, Sjostrom says she likely won’t seek to defend her Olympic 100 fly title unless something drastically changes.
“Of course I hope that the butterfly swimming will work all of a sudden,” she said. “But I am not very hopeful that the butterfly will work until the Olympics. It will be difficult. But I am very happy that the freestyle swimming works in any case.”
Sjostrom has swum the 100 fly in the past three Olympics, taking 27th in 2008 (at the age of 14), 4th in 2012, and 1st in 2016.