10 Swedish sports stars
Here are 10 sports stars from Sweden, from pole vaulter Armand Duplantis to swimmer Sarah Sjöström.
1. Anna Nordqvist
In 2008, Nordqvist quit college to concentrate on golf only – a decision that quickly paid off. Less than a year later, she won the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LGPA) Championships and became a major championship winner at the age of 22.
Then came a four-and-a-half-year title drought, but Nordqvist perservered. In 2014 she finally won another tournament to begin her long climb back to the summit. Then in 2017, after struggling through rain and winds, she finally captured her second major at the Evian Championship – coming off a summer battle with mononucleosis. That’s determination for you.
In 2021, Nordqvist won the Women's British Open, her third major title, at Carnoustie Golf Links, Scotland.
2. Armand Duplantis
Born in 1999 to an American father and a Swedish mother, pole vaulter Armand 'Mondo' Duplantis grew up in Lafayette, Louisiana, United States. Duplantis holds dual citizenship, and we’re thankful he chose to represent Sweden in athletics.
The sky could well be the only limit for this super talent, who dominates his sport like very few.
He made his first international mark at the 2018 European championships in Berlin, where he won the gold by clearing 6.05 metres. He was 18 at the time, which made him the youngest ever to clear six metres.
Since 2020, he holds the world record, which he has polished a couple of times.
But it was at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo – held in 2021 – that Duplantis truly began living up to the hype by clinching a major gold. Since then, he's also won the outdoor world championships twice, most recently in 2023 om Budapest.
At the 2023 Diamond League finals in Eugene, Oregon, Duplantis set his current world record of 6.23 metres.
3. Badou Jack
Not since the days of heavyweight world champion Ingemar ‘Ingo’ Johansson has Sweden had a boxer as internationally credible as Badou Jack.
Before his big break in 2015, he was more known in American boxing circles than in Sweden. That’s when he beat Anthony Dirrell to win the World Boxing Council (WBC) super-middleweight title, a belt he went on to defend three times before moving up to light heavyweight. There, he knocked out Welshman Nathan Cleverly to claim the World Boxing Association (WBA) title, which he immediately vacated in pursuit of bigger fights.
During 2018–2019, at light heavyweight, Jack had close fights with Adonis Stevenson and Jean Pascal for the WBC land WBA titles but was unable to secure wins.
Jack has since moved up to cruiserweight, and in 2023 won the WBC title with a twelfth-round technical knockout over Ilunga Makabu.
Outside the ring, Jack has used his fame to help feed and clothe refugee children from Syria and Palestine through the Badou Jack Foundation.
4. Dejan Kulusevski
’Gimme, gimme, gimme a ginger from Sweden!’
What better way to honour a Swede than with a chant derived from an ABBA hit?
The red-haired footballer Dejan Kulusevski joined Tottenham Hotspur on loan in January 2022, and the North London team’s fans were quick to take him to heart.
With his sharp left foot and dribbling skills, Kulusevski quickly delivered in the Premier League, scoring on his debut in a win over none other than Manchester City.
Back in 2020, Kulusevski had joined Juventus from Atalanta, but he was unable to hold down a regular starting spot in the Turin club, which prompted his move to Tottenham, who have now signed him permanently until 2028.
Capable both as a midfielder and striker, Kulusevski has said he prefers playing in a free role behind the strikers. Born in 2000, he is already a stalwart for the Swedish national team, and in 2022 he was awarded the Swedish Golden Ball as the country's male soccer player of the year. The future sure looks bright for this rising talent.
5. Ebba Årsjö
Ebba Årsjö rapidly established herself on the Para alpine skiing scene, winning two World Cup races in her debut season (2019–2020).
Fast-forward to 2023, and Årsjö is already something of a giant in her sport, at the tender age of 22.
To date, she has three world championships golds to her name, the most recent one coming in super-G at the 2023 World Para Alpine Skiing Championships in Espot, Spain.
Her big international breakthrough came at the 2022 Paralympics in Beijing, where first raced to a downhill bronze before winning golds both in the super combined and in slalom.
6. Elias Pettersson
By now, most ice hockey fans know about Elias Pettersson, a National Hockey League (NHL) sensation. This forward might be Sweden’s next big thing on ice, and that’s saying something for a country that has produced greats such as Peter Forsberg, Mats Sundin and Nicklas Lidström.
Pettersson has impressed every league he’s played in, having moved quickly through Allsvenskan (Sweden’s second highest league), Swedish top-tier SHL and on to the NHL, where he was awarded the Calder Memorial Trophy as rookie of the year through his performances with Vancouver Canucks (2018–2019 season). He also helped Sweden to a World Championship gold in 2018.
Pettersson’s coaches have praised him for his hockey sense, positive attitude and team spirit.
He signed for another three years with the Canucks in 2021, and his 2022–2023 season is his best to date – 102 points (39 goals, 63 assists) from 80 games.
7. Jonna Sundling
Jonna Sundling is Sweden’s unquestionably best cross-country skier right now, and that’s saying something. This, after all, is one sport where the country regularly delivers, with a long line of Swedish sports stars on both the women’s and the men’s sides.
At the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, Sundling clinched the freestyle sprint gold with dominant displays. She topped her heats before putting in a terrific spurt in the final to win by a margin of 2.88 seconds – a huge one in the context.
In Beijing, she also won silver in the team sprint and a bronze in the 4x5km relay, and she managed a fourth place in the 30-kilometre race.
At the world championships in Oberstdof in 2021, Sundling won golds both in the individual and the team sprint. She defended both those golds at the 2023 world championships in Planica, Slovenia.
Sundling is from city Umeå, on Sweden’s north-east coast. At club level, however, she competes for Piteå, a city some 220 kilometres further north.
8. Kosovare Asllani
Combining speed and technique, footballer Kosovare Asllani always had the natural attacking instincts of a striker, a role she thrived in during her years at Real Madrid (2019–2022).
In Sweden’s national team, however, ‘Kosse’ has come to feature as the crucial playmaker while shouldering defensive responsibilities as well. Versatile and hard-working, Asllani boasts World Cup bronzes from 2019 and 2023 as well as silver medals from the 2016 Rio and 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
At the 2023 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, Asllani served as captain for Sweden, which knocked out reigning champions United States as well as Japan before losing to eventual champions Spain in the semis.
That narrow 2-1 loss looked like a real heartbreaker, but Asllani and Sweden managed to bounce back to their best in the ensuing bronze match versus Australia. Following a penalty goal by Fridolina Rolfö, Asllani punctuated the match by curling the ball past keeper Mackenzie Arnold for a 2-0 win.
In 2022, Kosovare Asllani also received the Golden Foot in Monaco. This annual award honours male and female players aged 29 years or above who have made significant marks on soccer. The recipients are selected by a panel of international journalists, and Asllani made a bit of history as the first female player to receive the Golden Foot while still active. That same year, Asllani joined her current club AC Milan in the women's Serie A.
Being of Albanian heritage, Asllani celebrates her background with a black, double-headed eagle tattoo on her ankle – the same eagle as the one on the Albanian flag.
9. Sarah Sjöström
She was only 14 when she won her first international gold medal, back in 2008 at the European Championships when she triumphed in the 100-metre butterfly. But swimmer Sarah Sjöström has proven more than a prodigy.
In 2023, she claimed the golds in the 50-metre freestyle and the 50-metre butterfly at the World Aquatic Championships in Fukuoka, Japan. With these wins, she overtook the record of individual longcourse world podium finishes. From whom? The great Michael Phelps.
Her longcourse tally now stands at 21 podiums – 12 of which are gold – and the count is unlikely to stop here for Sjöström, now 30 years old.
10. Zlatan Ibrahimović
Yes, we know he's retired, but we'll keep footballer Zlatan on this list for a while, given that he's one of the all-time Swedish sports stars.
The tall striker from Malmö poured in goals nearly everywhere he played, winning league titles with Ajax in the Netherlands, Inter and AC Milan in Italy, Barcelona in Spain and Paris Saint-Germain in France.
Perhaps this makes it forgivable that he occasionally refers to himself in third person?
Already in 2014, Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter named him the second greatest Swedish sportsperson of all time, after tennis player Björn Borg.
After spells at Manchester United and LA Galaxy, Ibrahimović wrapped up his career with another stay at AC Milan, where he won the 2022 Serie A title.