Olympic gold medalist, world champion and world record holder swimmer Sarah Sjöström chatted with Markos Papadatos about the International Swimming League (ISL), motivations, and her competitive swimming career.
Sjöström is the world record holder in the following swimming events: the women’s 50 meter freestyle (long course), the 100 meter freestyle (long course), the 200 meter freestyle (short course), the 50 meter butterfly (long course), and the 100 meter butterfly (long course and short course). “The world records feel amazing. Some of them are really impressive such as the 50 meter fly. I am very proud of it,” she said.
She also earned three Olympic medals in Rio de Janeiro, which included a gold (women’s 100 meter butterfly, including a world record), silver (200 meter freestyle) and a bronze medal (100 meter freestyle). “That was a really cool experience since it was my third Olympics,” she said.
In 2019, she was a part of the inaugural ISL, where she competed for Energy Standard, and they won the title as the best ISL swimming team in the world. “That was amazing since it was the first time I did something like that,” she said. “Normally when I race, I race for myself, but this time I was racing for a team so it was definitely a different kind of pressure and a new experience. It felt amazing when we took home the title.”
A native of Sweden, Sjöström was also named MVP of the entire ISL season, which was yet another amazing experience. “That was exciting. It was really a close battle with Caeleb Dressel and Chad Le Clos, who was catching up in the end,” she admitted.
Speaking of Chad Le Clos, she served as a team captain of Energy Standard, along with him. “Chad is one of my best friends. We train together,” she said. “We’ve known each other for many years and we actually got to know each other better when we started training and racing together. I was happy when he won MVP at the European ISL derby.”
She had nothing but the kindest remarks about James Gibson, the General Manager and Head Coach of Energy Standard. “James is amazing. I really enjoy working with James. He is always very inspiring and for me, it’s very important to have a coach that is very engaged,” she said. “When you can see that the coach is excited about the work that you are doing, that makes me more inspired and it is definitely easier to do all those hard sessions when I am working with James.”
Each day, she is motivated by her desire to get better and to find a new challenge each time. “I really enjoy having swimming as my job. It’s so cool to have a job that you are really good at. I enjoy traveling around the world. It’s a nice life being an athlete for sure,” she said.
On the impact of technology on the sport of swimming, she said, “Technology has definitely changed it. I’ve been a professional swimmer in a really cool time. I’ve seen the changes. Everybody always has cellphones in their pockets, which makes it easier to film techniques.”
For recovery purposes, she uses a watch that measures her sleep and it gives her a wellness report each morning, which indicates how sore or tired they are. This way, it allows them to follow the recovery and training process.
Affectionately known as “Gold Bae,” she listed the butterfly as her personal favorite stroke, though it may be the most difficult out of all the strokes. “My best event at the moment is the 50 meter freestyle,” she said. “Butterfly is my favorite at the moment, and hopefully it’s my best event this year. That’s the plan.”
Regarding the title of the current chapter of her life, she responded, “The Coronavirus.” “This is a completely new challenge for everyone,” she admitted.
American swimmer Michael Andrew featured Sarah Sjöström in his YouTube channel, in an interview that was posted back in September of 2018. “Michael is doing a good job with his vlog. That was good,” she said. “It’s always easy when you do an interview with a good friend. I felt we could talk about a lot of things in a very short time.”
For young and aspiring swimmers, she said, “They are the ones that need to make it work. The coach can write the session on the board but they need to put in the work. The coach should not be blamed if they do not perform well or if they don’t perform as they expected. It needs to come from the swimmer. They should sit down and write down their goals. They should write down a goal that is lofty. Obviously, you need to set small goals along the way so you can see improvement every week, that’s important. They should write down a dream. I even write those goals down.”
She defined the word success as “challenging yourself” and “feeling happy with what you are doing.” “Being happy with the process is a success,” she said.
Sjöström concluded by expressing her gratitude to all of her fans. “It makes it easier to work hard when my fans are following me,” she said. “Thank you to my fans for supporting me.”
To learn more about world record holder swimmer Sarah Sjöström, follow her on Instagram.