Sweden’s Alshammar won’t swim in record 7th Olympics

Jun 25, 2021, 7:27 PM | Updated: Jun 26, 2021, 7:30 am

ROME (AP) — Her attempt to swim in a record seventh Olympics fallen short, Therese Alshammar can go back to doing what she loves most these days.

Teaching 5-year-old kids how to swim.

“That’s the best. It’s more rewarding than this,” Alshammar said moments after missing out on qualifying for a spot on Sweden’s 4×100-meter freestyle relay team on Saturday.

The 43-year-old Alshammar was beaten by an Indian swimmer less than half her age in a two-woman heat at the Seven Hills meet in her final chance to qualify for next month’s Tokyo Games.

Alshammar touched in 57.99 seconds — about two seconds slower than she needed in the 100 free.

Under a searing Roman sun in a half-empty outdoor arena, Northwestern University athlete Kenisha Gupta won the heat in 57.35.

“It was harder than I imagined,” Alshammar said. “If you want to race good you have to practice often. And this year with the (pandemic) it’s been a different year.”

A mother of two kids — ages 8 and 3 — Alshammar decided to make a comeback at the start of the year after having retired in 2016.

“Because of the (pandemic), I trained more but also racing was much harder,” she said. “There was not many competitions to find. And I was never good at the 100 in the last part of my career. So the 100 hurts more than I could remember. Even today — coming out was OK; coming home was terribly hard.”

The comeback wasn’t something that Alshammar planned. It just kind of happened because her day job of teaching swimming in Stockholm got suspended when public pools in Sweden were closed because of the pandemic.

Johan Wallberg, Alshammar’s partner and longtime coach, directs Sweden’s elite training center.

So with more time on her hands, Alshammar began swimming seriously again.

“I swam four times a week with his team,” she said. “So I’m like, ‘OK, I’m not so bad.’ I can tell I’m not great but I wasn’t awful. I could keep up with a lot of the swimmers. And I like training.”

The comeback got more complicated when Wallberg contracted the coronavirus.

“I was locked in the hotel room and she was two weeks with the kids,” Wallberg said.

Then Alshammar’s back started giving her trouble.

“I couldn’t dive,” she said.

As for her teaching job, Alshammar isn’t looking for Sweden’s next swimming star.

“No. I’m looking to help people find joy and happiness in sports and healthy habits for life,” she said. “If you can make someone who cannot swim feel comfortable and safe in the water, it’s the biggest smile on my face and it’s a great reward for everyone.”

Working with 5- and 6-year-old kids being introduced to swimming for the first time, the biggest goal is teaching them to stay afloat and not be afraid to put their heads under the water.

“Yes. We call it starfish. All they do is lay on their back with their arms out and smile,” Alshammar said.

She can get back to work after the Olympics.

Even though she won’t be competing, Alshammar will still travel to Tokyo as a candidate for the International Olympic Committee’s athletes’ commission.

“My idea was I can be a great reserve,” Alshammar said. “If someone falls sick, they can call me from the stands.”

While a seventh games wasn’t meant to be, Alshammar remains the only female swimmer to have competed in six Olympics (from 1996 to 2016). Two men have also achieved the feat: Derya Büyükuncu of Turkey and Lars Frölander of Sweden (both from 1992-2012).

Alshammar won two silver medals (in the 50 and 100 free) and a bronze (4×100 free relay) at the 2000 Sydney Games. She also won eight medals at the world championships over her career.

She joins a star-studded list that includes Americans Ryan Lochte, Nathan Adrian and Anthony Ervin as failing to qualify for Tokyo.

Alshammar will compete in the 50 free on Sunday to conclude her career. She’s not attempting to qualify in that event and has no plans for another comeback in the future.

“It’s strange coming from me but swimming has a time when you’re young and you don’t have kids,” Alshammar said. “The center of your world is your training and yourself. Now, for me, I cannot compare. It’s two different things.”


More AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/olympic-games and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports


Andrew Dampf is at https://twitter.com/AndrewDampf

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Associated Press

Ex-Packer Guion gets 1 year for domestic violence assault

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Former Green Bay Packers defensive tackle Letroy Guion was sentenced to one year in jail after pleading no contest in a domestic violence assault at his home last fall. Brown County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Walsh also ordered Guion on Tuesday to serve three years’ probation and complete a domestic […]

3 months ago

Joe Jarzynka...

Associated Press

Durant eager for Suns debut vs. Hornets after knee injury

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Kevin Durant has been through quite a bit during his 15-year NBA career — but joining a new team midway through the season is a new one for the 13-time All-Star. The 34-year-old Durant doesn’t seem all that worried. Durant makes his highly anticipated Phoenix Suns debut on Wednesday night against […]

3 months ago

FILE - Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores stands on the sideline during the second half of an N...

Associated Press

Judge: NFL coach can press discrimination claims in court

NEW YORK (AP) — NFL Coach Brian Flores can pursue some of his discrimination claims against the league and its teams in court rather than through arbitration, a judge ruled Wednesday. The written decision by Judge Valerie Caproni in Manhattan was issued months after lawyers for the league tried to get the lawsuit moved to […]

3 months ago

Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Alex Stalock cools off in the first period during an NHL hockey game ...

Associated Press

Kane trade reinforces hard reality of Blackhawks rebuild

CHICAGO (AP) — After days of speculation, the harsh reality of the Chicago Blackhawks’ situation was reinforced by one move in a flurry of transactions ahead of the NHL trade deadline. Showtime is over, at least in Chicago, and a seemingly bright future is, well, way off in the distance. The reverberations of Chicago’s decision […]

3 months ago

FILE -  Yves Jean-Bart, president of the Haitian Football Federation, wearing a protective face mas...

Associated Press

Disgraced ex-Haitian soccer president announces he’s back

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Haiti’s former soccer federation president whose lifetime ban from sport over sexual abuse allegations was overturned last month announced Wednesday that he is reclaiming his position. Yves Jean-Bart’s defiant announcement could lead to a standoff with FIFA, which already has appointed an emergency management committee to lead the Haitian Football Association […]

3 months ago

FILE - Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers walks off the field after an NFL football game against the ...

Associated Press

Rodgers says decision on future will come ‘soon enough’

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Aaron Rodgers says he will make a decision on his future “soon enough” as the four-time MVP quarterback ponders whether to play next season and if his future remains with the Green Bay Packers. Rodgers, 39, discussed his future while speaking on an episode of the “Aubrey Marcus Podcast” that […]

3 months ago

Sweden’s Alshammar won’t swim in record 7th Olympics