10 Swedish sports stars
Here are 10 Swedish sports stars – from Anna Nordqvist and Armand Duplantis to Sarah Sjöström and Zlatan.
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 is currently Olympic champion, indoor and outdoor world champion, and European indoor and outdoor champion at once. Oh, and he's the world-record holder, too.
Duplantis 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. A year later, he won silver at the 2019 world outdoor championships in Doha. Then at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo – held in 2021 – Duplantis lived up to the high expectations and took gold.
Since 2020, he holds the world record, which he has polished a couple of times. Most recently, at the 2023 All Star Perche event in Clermont-Ferrand, France, he set the current indoor record with a 6.22-metre.
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. In 2021, Jack moved up to cruiserweight.
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 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. He completed his first half-season in the league with 3 goals and 8 assists from 14 matches.
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.
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 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 2021-2022 season was his best to date – 32 goals and 36 assists from 80 matches.
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 Sweden regularly delivers, with a long line of champions both on the women’s and 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.
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, 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 a World Cup bronze from 2019 as well as silver medals from the 2016 Rio and 2020 Tokyo Olympics with the national team.
At the 2022 European championships, Sweden and Asllani reached the semi-finals, where England – eventual winners of the tournament – proved too strong. Later that year, Asllani joined AC Milan in the women's Serie A after signing a two-year contract.
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.
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 – swimmer
This force of nature 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 Sarah Sjöström has proven more than a prodigy. During some courses of her career, she has dominated her sport like very few.
Although she’s a contender in backstroke and freestyle racing, it’s as a butterfly swimmer on 50 and 100 metres that Sjöström truly excels. At the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janerio, she became Sweden’s first female Olympic gold medallist swimmer by winning the 100-metre butterfly event.
Sjöström has won many World Championship titles, both in long- and short-course events. And for a while, Sjöström held eight world records simultaneously – a record in itself.
At the 2019 world championships in Gwangju, South Korea, Sjöström won five medals, all individual: a gold in the 50-metre butterfly, silvers in the 100-metre butterfly and 50-metre freestyle, and bronzes in 100-metre and 200-metre freestyle.
Despite breaking her elbow in a slip accident in early 2021, she managed to come back and win a silver medal in 50-metre freestyle at the 2020 Summer Olympics (held in 2021). In December that same year, at the World Short Course Championships in Abu Dhabi, Sjöström won the 50-metre freestyle gold as well as well as two relay golds (4 X 50 m medley and 4 X 100 m medley).
10. Zlatan Ibrahimović
It would be impossible not to include footballer Zlatan Ibrahimović on a list like this. The tall striker from Malmö has poured in goals nearly everywhere he’s 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?
In 2014 Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter named him the second greatest Swedish sportsperson of all time, after tennis player Björn Borg. Unlike most of his peers, Ibrahimović shows few signs of resting on his laurels. In 2018 Ibrahimović left Manchester United and joined LA Galaxy in the Major Soccer League.
Now he’s at AC Milan, with which he won the 2022 Serie A title. He may be born in 1981, but he seems forever young!