Sjostrom still fighting for gold after comeback from injury

Tokyo (AFP) –


Sweden's swimming star Sarah Sjostrom has already won an arm wrestle against a discus thrower this week and now she hopes to complete her comeback from a broken elbow by winning gold at Tokyo 2020.

"I did some arm wrestling with our biggest guy in the Swedish group and I won, I'm pretty happy with that," said Sjostrom on Thursday, after posting an Instagram video of her putting down Swedish world discus champion Daniel Stahl in the Olympic Village.

Asked if the victory gave her confidence in her recovering right arm, she said with a smile: "Definitely! It was my biggest win in the Olympics."

Sjostrom is one of swimming's greatest ever sprinters, having won gold in the 100m butterfly in Rio and set the world record in both the 50m and 100m freestyle.

But the 27-year-old's chances of success in Japan, especially in the butterfly, have been reduced after she slipped on ice in Stockholm in February and fractured her right elbow.

Surgery required the insertion of a metal plate and six screws, with Sjostrom still bearing a scar down her forearm, where she sports a tattoo of the Olympic rings and the Swedish flag.

"It has been a long process, I wish I had a few more weeks of training but I don't. I'm here now and I had a really good last few weeks of preparations," Sjostrom said.

"I don't feel pain in my elbow anymore and I've been improving all the way from February until now. I'm super happy with that."

Sjostrom was always confident of being able to compete at the Olympics but has only raced competitively twice this year, the first of those events coming in June in France before a second, more encouraging, outing in Rome three weeks ago.

- 'A different challenge' -

She has admitted her injury causes her problems with the 100m butterfly, which she said will still race in Tokyo but now views as the "last priority". Her best chance of gold will be in the 50m freestyle, which she circled as her "best event".

"Now I'm focusing even more on the sprints," she said.

Sjostrom appeared relaxed ahead of the first day of swimming competition on Saturday, with expectations around her lower than in Rio five years ago, when she was Sweden's greatest medal hope.

"When you come to an Olympics you always have high expectations. But this is my fourth Olympics and I have had a very different preparation to my last Olympics, it's been a different challenge," she said. "I'm going to do everything I can and we'll see how it goes."

Tokyo 2020 will also be a completely different experience to Rio, with worsening Covid numbers in Japan meaning no fans are allowed while athletes have had to deal with the lingering threat of cancellation, as well as heavily restricted preparations.

"It's been a very long preparation," said Sjostrom. "I started doing a documentary about my preparations for the Olympics in 2018 and it's been the longest documentary ever! They've had three years. It's been very long but it's finally going to happen."

Asked if the lack of fans could affect times at the Tokyo Aquatic Centre, Sjostrom said: "I think when you stand next to your competitors you're going to get the adrenaline anyway.

"But 100 percent it's more exciting when you stand behind the blocks with a crowd. You can't compare that to anything. It's amazing, but it's not going to be like that unfortunately."