This year’s IAAF World Championship promoter slogan ‘Dreams, Passion and Challenge’ may just be more than appropriate for the attending Swedish team as athletes are daring only to dream of medals, and expectations are low.
While Jamaican track star Usain Bolt and Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele along with Russian high jumper Blanka Vlasic and American Allyson Felix are all the centre of attention leading up to the competition, Sweden’s track and field favorites have fallen short before the first day in Daegu on Saturday.
International medallist and the nation’s most-loved hurdler Sanna Kallur is sitting this one out due to injury, and Swedish sports icon Carolina Klüft is still finding her feet in the long jump after turning her back on the heptathlon.
A further victim of the Swedish injury curse is 2011 European junior pole vault gold medallist and world junior record holder Angelica Bengtsson, whose hand injury has ruled her out of the championships.
Coach Stefan Olsson is acutely aware of the weaker composition of his team and said in an interview with the Swedish Athletic Association that he hardly expects any Swedish medals, rather that the team is aiming for the finals and hasn’t looked much further.
Though the Swedes may not finish first in Korea next week, the sports world has predicted that some of those sporting blue and yellow jerseys at least have a chance of making it to the podium. Included below is a selection of Swedish hopefuls.
Perhaps the top of the list of hopefuls for a Swedish win, triple jumper Christian Olsson is the team’s comeback kid. This former Olympic and world gold medallist hasn’t competed on a global stage since 2003 due to a series of injuries, but is still seen as a contender this year, ranking eighth in the world.
Emma Green Tregaro
Silver medallist at the 2010 European Athletics Championships, high jumper Emma Green Tregaro boasts the impressive feat of improving her personal best twice in five minutes at the Swedish Championship and is hoping to do better. Her event takes place on Thursday in Daegu, stepping it up from the 1.9 metre mark may snag a medal for Sweden.
A Swedish household name, three-time heptathlon world champion Carolina Klüft is this year competing in the long jump, a bold switch in skill that has incited both critism and praise, and has yet to bear fruit in the form of a medal. There has been some progress though with Klüft performing as the best competitor when securing a spot in Daegu earlier this month at the athletics event in Karlstad.
In line for the 200 and 400 metre sprints, Moa Hjelmer holds the current Swedish record after beating Ann-Louise Skoglund’s previous time, which stood for a full 25 years. At the IAAF World Championships, Hjelmer has the option of participating in either the 200 and 400 metre events, or both. This choice could determine if a track medal is in the works for Sweden.
Sweden’s best bet for the men’s high jump, Alhaji Jeng cleared the qualifier’s limit without trouble and coach Olsson secured his spot in Daegu immediately. The athlete is said to have potential but needs to get back in the game, as his latest Swedish Championship gold was won in 2006.
Stockholm Marathon winner 4 years running is Kenyan-turned-Swede Isabellah Andersson, who is in good shape to give European contenders a run for their money at the marathon event on Saturday. Last to land in Daegu on Thursday night and first of the team to compete, Andersson is determined to speed through the 7-hour time difference. Having set three new Swedish marathon records in three consecutive years, this runner’s race to the top could finish with a medal.