“I didn’t think it was true that I won. Then I thought it was really amazing since they had actually laughed at me when I came here to compete,” the 45-year-old Olsson told TV4.
Olsson, a Paralympic gold medalist who is paralyzed from the waist down, was the first swimmer without functioning legs to enter the grueling competition.
Dubbed the “Swim with the Centurions”, the race entails swimming 2.6 kilometres in the rough and frigid waters of the San Francisco bay that separate the famed prison island from the mainland.
While Olsson described plying through the chilly 13 degree Celsius waters as “tough” he nevertheless managed to outclass hundreds of other swimmers who participated in the event, despite not having use of his legs.
Not only was Olsson’s time of 24m32s enough to give him a four minute margin of victory over second place Kyle Winters, but it also set a new record for the 9-year-old Alcatraz Classic.
Following his stunning victory, Olsson was christened “The Swedish Torpedo” by his fellow competitors.
Olsson, who lost the use of his legs in the mid-1990s, was confined to a bed for five years battling depression and morphine addiction until he turned his life around in 2002, according to an account on his personal website.
He has since competed in the Paralyimpics in 2004 and 2008, and been named Sweden’s Handicapped Athlete of the year in 2008 and 2010.