Pedro Adrega, Head of FINA Communications Department

“Yes, it’s true that Sweden has been doing quite well in this competition…” Sarah Sjostrom, who competed this morning in the heats of the Doha (QAT) leg of the FINA/airweave Swimming World Cup is the latest example of her country’s achievements in this competition. The Swedish star, provisional leader of the overall ranking of the series, accumulates, before this afternoon’s finals, a total of 27 gold medals in the competition – the latest five were achieved in Hong Kong this weekend. Sjostrom’s next victory will mean she is the third best Swedish female swimmer in the history of the competition.

The leader of this “golden” ranking for Sweden remains Therese Alshammar, one of the past legends of the World Cup. With an impressive harvest of 93 titles, the now-retired champion had been one of the references of this annual circuit, before the arrival of “hurricane” Katinka Hosszu (HUN, winner of the series since 2012), who is by far the most successful athlete in the history of the World Cup, with 240 gold medals before tonight’s finals. In fact, the Swedish great is the third best female athlete in the history of the competition, the second place coming to Martina Moravcova (SVK), with 105 titles.

Therese Alshammar (SWE) - Photo by Giorgio Scala/Deepbluemedia

Alshammar had an impressive and long career. She is the only female swimmer in history to have participated in six editions of the Olympic Games, from Atlanta 1996 to Rio 2016. In this Olympic adventure, she captured two individual medals, the silver in the 50m and 100m free, at the Sydney 2000 edition. After the Brazilian rendezvous last year, Alshammar said goodbye to the pools, leaving also an important legacy in terms of World Cup achievements. Besides her 93 wins, she won the overall title of the circuit on four occasions (2006, 2007, 2010 and 2011) and established five World Records during her World Cup appearances. 

“For many years, Therese has been the athlete on the top. I raced a lot of times against her at the Swedish Nationals and she was definitively the athlete to beat”, concedes Sjostrom. But in 2017, the pace is being set by the three-time Olympic medallist. “It’s the first time I’m doing the whole circuit. To be totally honest, it took me a while to fully understand the scoring procedure and how you the points system is working. Now, it’s clear: I basically need to race fast and try to be the best I can at each race”, confesses Sjostrom.

The 24-year-old Swedish champion earned three Olympic medals in Rio 2016 – gold in the 100m butterfly, silver in the 200m free and bronze in the 100m free -, and was the “Best Female Swimmer” at the 2017 FINA World Championships in Budapest (HUN), after winning the 50m free and the 50m and 100m fly. In the Magyar capital, she was also silver medallist in the 100m free. At the 25m Worlds, her only successes were curiously achieved in Doha, when in 2014 she collected three gold and one silver medal. At the 2017 World Cup, she has established four World Records so far: one in the 50m free (23.10), two in the 100m free (50.77 and 50.58) and one in the 200m free (1:50.43). 

Before Doha’s fifth leg of the 2017 World Cup, the Swedish ranking of the best female athletes of the competition includes Alshammar (93 gold), Johanna Sjoberg (35 victories), Sjostrom and Josefin Lillhage (tied at 27), Emma Igelstrom (16), and Anna-Karin Kammerling (12, and the overall victory in 2005). “Our success is naturally reflected in the media coverage we are having in Sweden. Every time I race, they write about me…”, concludes Sjostrom.

And what about men? The trend is not in the Nordic countries, nor in Europe. We have to travel further south, precisely to South Africa. Chad Le Clos (127 gold), Roland Schoeman (64) and Cameron van der Burgh (57), are the winners’ all-time list leading trio. But that would be another story…