Sarah Sjostrom To Focus On Freestyle, May Not Swim Butterfly In Tokyo Olympics

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.

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Joe
4 months ago

That would be a very sad for Sjostrom but I am impressed by her optimistic attitude about the situation. Looks like Hansson will fill in as the Swedish flyer quite nicely.

Dee
4 months ago

Right decision imo – 100fl looks like it’s going to take a 55. to medal and that’ll be a tough ask.

Robbos
Reply to  Dee
4 months ago

And 100 free looks like it’s 52.2 or better to medal, that’s also a tough task.

Swammerstein
4 months ago

Wouldnt it be better to give her spot up to someone else thats at 100%? I feel like she needs to show whats shes got in June or early July

nuotofan
Reply to  Swammerstein
4 months ago

Sjostrom will swim at least two meets before Olympics (one of them will be Sette Colli in Rome).
Anyway, quite impressive reading a comment like this. I’ve never seen a swimmer so generous vs her Country like Sjostrom, who has swum plenty of relay heats, to make possible that her team advanced to the final, even if the fatigue due to the great amount of swims diminished her chances to reach individual golds.

Swammerstein
Reply to  nuotofan
4 months ago

thats a lot different than breaking her arm months before. dont be ridiculous dude

nuotofan
Reply to  Swammerstein
4 months ago

And Swedish depth is a lot different that in Usa (but also in other Countries..). I think that Sjostrom would be the first to give her spot in the 50 or 100 free to other Swedish swimmers who have swum the QT, if more competitive at the end of July.

Rafael
Reply to  Swammerstein
4 months ago

I think Sweden does not have anyone with A cut on 100 fly except Sjostrom Herself and Hanson.. so giving up her spot would not make any difference

Same on 50 free only Herself and Coleman.

On 100 free they have Sjostrom, Coleman and Hanson, but Hanson is 54 low.. So why should sjostrom give up?

nuotofan
Reply to  Rafael
4 months ago

Agreed Rafael.

Dan
Reply to  Rafael
4 months ago

Plus the minimum time for the Swedish Olympic Committee for consideration is faster than FINA A cuts, ex. Women’s 50 Free is 24.53 vs 24.77, plus the 24.53 is still not a guaranteed spot (I don’t have all the event cuts on top of my mind, just 1 example here).

fmku
Reply to  Swammerstein
4 months ago

Who would that be? Sweden unfortunately has no depth in any event, there is no chance what so ever two others are going to clear the Swedish Olympic cuts in any of Sarah’s events. (Which are faster than the FINA A-cuts) Even Coleman does not have a slot yet.

Aquajosh
4 months ago

It could be a blessing in disguise. She’s always been spread thin with relay duties and four individual events, so narrowing it down to the 400 mr and maybe 400 fr and 50/100 free could give her that extra bit of energy to overcome not being 100%.

Jont
Reply to  Aquajosh
4 months ago

I wouldn’t rule out 200 free. Being able to focus on that as her first event could set her up. The level is still stuck at 1.54-1.55 and she has been succesful when going for that event. It’s a very open event with Ledecky having to juggle 200 and 1500 at the same days, anyone in the final can probably win. But we will see in June what shape she shows up in.

We don’t know yet if the Swedish olympic committee will send relay teams. If Coleman makes it in individually there will surely be a team, but if not they could decide to only send Sjöström and the Hanssons for their individual races.

Yozhik
Reply to  Jont
4 months ago

To my recollection Sjostrom was never successful in both fly and freestyle in same season. It were either outstanding results in fly events or in freestyle.
Facing tough competition in 100 fly it may be a good idea to focus on freestyle only in her conditions. And as you said 200 maybe the most attractive area where the podium is hard to predict today.
The only problem is that by her own words she hated to train for this distance. But it looks that she doesn’t have many choices now.

Dan
Reply to  Yozhik
4 months ago

2017 results including World Champs (at least if we look at her fastest times for each distance).

Swimfan
4 months ago

Classy women I have so much respect for her!!!

Boo
4 months ago

This basically decides Swedens medley relay. Coleman-Hansson-Hansson-Sjostrom

Jont
Reply to  Boo
4 months ago

L. Hansson is okay in freestyle and backstroke but world class in fly now so I couldn’t see it any other way.

Coleman must drop time in backstroke though if the team is to have any chance.

Aquajosh
Reply to  Jont
4 months ago

It’s unfortunate for someone as gifted as Sarah that Sweden’s relays have always been one leg short of greatness. It certainly hasn’t been for lack of effort on her part.

fmku
Reply to  Aquajosh
4 months ago

For 8 years they have been looking for a competitive backstroker…

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Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

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