Sarah Sjostrom’s Steely Approach To Rio Olympics: 55.9 Makes It Fastest 5 Ever

Sarah Sjostrom - by Patrick B. Kraemer

Sarah Sjostrom approaches her Rio 2016 Olympics campaign in a stronger position than any other Madam Butterfly since the days of Mary T Meagher, the American who had to wait four years from boycotted Moscow 1980 to a home Games glory in Los Angeles in 1984. A 55.95 victory in the 100m butterfly at Swedish nationals in Norrköping set a championship mark and granted Sjostrom an eighth entry in the all-time top 10, including the best 5 ever inside the 55.98 in which Dana Vollmer (USA) claimed Olympic gold in world-record time at London 2012

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100 fly
Kazan: 26.17 – 29.47 (55.64)
Recent: 25.85 – 30.1 (55.95)

200 free
Kazan: 55.51 – 58.80 (1:54.31)
Recent: 56.56 – 57.78 (1:54.34)

There could be a pattern that suggests how costly for Sarah the fast start is. If there is something in it then it provides some clue how to treat Sjostrom’s recent result at 200 free and how much of improvement one can expect from her at this distance should she start this race faster.

John Svensson

Note that this race had a heavy tailwind going out, and thus a heavy headwind going home in an outdoor pool, probably skewing the splits further. However she said as much as she was experimenting with her front half speed to “prepare her body” for the last 10 meters.


For those who are bettng the following information can be of some help. If to consider that Sarah Sjostrom wasn’t tapered/rested at her last meet then she is probably very close to her 2014 form at freestyle which is still the best in her career (23.98, 52.67, 1:53.64r, 4:06.04)
Her splits at 200 are exactly how I believe 200 FR has to be swum – long sprint, but not negative splits or sprinting at last lap. The way how it was done by Schmitt (1:53.67)

Berlin: (1:53.64) 26.20 – 28.77 – 29.28 – 29.39 (rt: 0.32)
Kazan: (1:54.31) 26.72 – 28.79 – 29.67 – 29.13 (rtf: 0.69)
Recent: (1:54.34) 27.11 – 29.45 – 28.89 – 28.89

Since there no definite signs that she improved at freestyle from her 2014 form I would use her 2014 time as benchmark estimating her potentials at 200 freestyle as 1:54.1 +/- 0.15

Craig Lord

Yes Yozhik – and then there’s the race with others, for all who make that final. No matter what the plan or how it could or should be swum, response to events and who is capable of reaching for what is what will count.

Craig Lord

Thanks for that insight John. She obviously understands the balance of battle ahead in a race with two sub 52ers (she and Emma McK – and a third with Femke H if she returns to best form) and Pellegrini on a new 53.1 – and KL’s potential a touch masked at this stage but likely to involve the stuff that requires steel in those last 10m Sarah referes to.

kevin roose

i feel sorry for Emma Mckeon that she has to race Sarah in the 100 butterfly , Sjostrom is Ledecky like in this event. While Emma will account for herself extremely well and do a P.B , HEAT SEMI OR THE FINAL , she wont beat Sarah. Well it would be a major boil over if she did ……

John Svensson

Craig, I was referring to the 100 butterfly race but obviously the same could be applied for the 200 freestyle.

As for the freestyle, she generally likes to pace herself with the competition so I expect her to just try and follow Katie or Federica or whoever is next to her, and then hope to have the best finish. Like in Doha 2014, where she last swam the 200 free individually. If Katie goes out crazy fast like some races at the trials, and manages to close, it could be a one man show though. I don’t think Sarah is interested in a low/mid 55 for the first 100 because it would put the medal at risk. It’s up to Ledecky if she wants to play that card, other girls trying it will most likely die hard last 25m.

One thing looking great for Sarah right now is her lowered stroke rate, this will allow her to cruise through the heats and control the semis, in comparison to some other girls that can’t conserve any energy in order to do a 1.56 time. That should allow her a max effort in the finals after a full morning rest.


If Sjostrom is in such a form that she cannot show stable time with 55low start as she did in Berlin then we probably shouldn’t expect from her 1:54.10 (1:53.64 adjusted by rt). The 1:54.2-1:54.4 most likely will be enough for podium but may happen to be too slow for gold.
I would say that the slow 56mid start shown recently is a risky racing tactic.

Craig Lord

I agree John that Sarah is in a great position though KL, FP, EMc are also swimmers who have shown time and again that they can cruise and speed through the rounds and still deliver come the final. Sure they’ll all aiming for ‘max effort in the final’, and all are capable of delivering that. It’s going to be a fascinating race.

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