When Sarah Sjöström hated swimming - and hid in the showers!

Sarah Sjostrom of Sweden celebrates winning gold and setting a new world record in the Women's 100m Butterfly Final at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
Sarah Sjostrom of Sweden celebrates winning gold and setting a new world record in the Women's 100m Butterfly Final at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

Ever wondered what your favourite sportspeople were like before they were super-mega-famous? Every week Tokyo 2020 will give you a glimpse into what life was like for some of the world’s greatest athletes before they were stars.

The deets

  • Name: Sarah Fredrika Sjöström
  • Age: 27
  • Nationality: Swedish
  • Profession: Swimmer

What has she achieved?

If Michael Phelps is the personification of gold in water, Sarah Sjöström is the same in women's.

Under her belt, you can find whatever that means success: world records, world championships, Olympic glory.

She is the current world record-holder in six events: 50m freestyle (long course), 100m freestyle (long course), 200m freestyle (short course), 50m butterfly (long course) and the 100m butterfly (long and short course).

She won the World Cup in 2017 and 2018 and has captured 10 individual World Championship golds.

At Rio 2016, Sjöström was the first Swedish woman to win a gold medal in swimming in the Olympics, in the 100m butterfly event, where she also broke the world record by clocking 55.48.

In the same Olympics, she also claimed the silver medal in the 200m freestyle and bronze in the 100 m freestyle. Rio was her third Olympic Games - after Beijing and London - but the first in which she jumped onto the podium.

In addition to all of this, the 'Queen of Freestyle' has twice been named FINA Female Swimmer of the Year.

Surprising fact

Sjöström played football and handball and took up swimming at the age of nine. She did so because her best friend at school joined a swimming club and she wanted to spend more time with her.

Back then, she wasn't a fan of being in the water.

"When I first started, I didn't like swimming. I hated getting water in my goggles. I didn't like being cold, so I used to hide in the showers!" she explained to the Olympic Channel.

Five years later she won her first European Championship title. She was just 14.

Today she doesn't just excel at swimming but has also ventured into sport climbing, one of the new sports for Tokyo 2020.

"It helps with arm strength. But I won't compete in it at the Olympic Games. I know it is a new discipline and I joked about it on social media," she told Olympic.org.

What is she up to now?

Sjöström lost her 100m butterfly world title at the 2019 FINA World Championships, despite previously winning four of the five previous editions.

However the Swedish swimmer still came away with a gold in the 50m butterfly, two silvers in the 50m freestyle and 100m butterfly, and two bronzes in the 100m and 200m freestyle.

And that's why her legacy is widely expected to continue at Tokyo 2020.

"I know what's waiting for me there," she told Olympic.org. "Tokyo is one of my favourite cities, and I know I'll have a good time no matter what happens. I think I have trained a lot and I have faith in the work I have done. I hope the results will come with it."

"I think the Olympics itself is a challenge big enough. After all, the Olympics only come around every four years, and getting in shape and performing at your top level just at that moment is a challenge itself. But it’s been a while since I did a PB (personal best), so that might be a good challenge for the coming season," she told FINA.org.

But in her case, personal best means breaking a world record.

"Yes, it does. Okay then, the goal is to swim in world record times again," she admitted.

We will have to wait one more year for Tokyo 2020 to see if Sjostrom can do it all over again.

Sarah Sjostrom at age 17

The story of the Swedish star years before she became her country's first female swimmer to win an Olympic gold medal.