11 Swedish sports stars
Here are 11 Swedish sports stars – from Anna Nordqvist and Armand Duplantis to Sarah Sjöström and Zlatan Ibrahimović.
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, a scenario that would have demoralised many. But Nordqvist is tougher than most.
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.
2. Armand Duplantis
Born to an American father and a Swedish mother, pole vaulter Armand Duplantis grew up in Lafayette, Louisiana. Duplantis holds dual citizenship, and we’re thankful he chose to represent Sweden in athletics.
At the 2018 European championships in Berlin, Duplantis won the gold by clearing 6.05 metres – at the tender age of 18. With that jump he became the youngest ever to clear six metres, and a year later, at the world championships in Doha, he won the silver medal.
The sky could well be the only limit for this super talent, who cleared 6.15 metres at an event in Rome in 2020 – the current world outdoor record.
Hello, 2021 Olympics!
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.
Outside the ring, Jack used his fame to help feed and clothe refugee children from Syria and Palestine through the Badou Jack Foundation.
4. Charlotte Kalla
Charlotte Kalla is Sweden’s most successful cross-country skier ever, counting in World Championship and Olympic medals. She has amassed 22 medals from ten championships – most notably one gold and three silvers at the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang – and the count probably won’t stop there.
Born in 1987 in Tärendö in Sweden’s very north, Kalla burst into the highlight with her Tour de Ski win back in 2008 and has been immensely popular ever since. Swedes sure love their cross-country skiers. Perhaps because they represent an epic relationship with nature?
5. Elias Pettersson
By now, most ice hockey fans know about Elias Pettersson, a National Hockey League (NHL) sensation. This young 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). Not to mention helping Sweden to a World Championship gold in 2018. Pettersson’s coaches have praised him for his hockey sense, positive attitude and team spirit.
6. Hanna Öberg
Hanna Öberg carries on Sweden’s great tradition of success in women’s biathlon, the sport that combines cross-country skiing and rifle shooting. In 2017 the International Biathlon Union (IBU) named her Rookie of the Year following her World Cup debut season.
A year later she delivered beyond all promise with a truly awesome performance at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, hitting all 20 targets to win the individual gold on 15 kilometres. Her win was voted Swedish sports achievement of 2018 by a jury led by Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet, earning her the Bragdguldet award.
In 2019, on Swedish home soil at the World Championships in Östersund, she triumphed with another individual gold on 15 kilometres – and two relay medals.
At the 2021 world championships in Pokljuka in Slovenia, Öberg won individual silver on 15 kilometres.
7. Henrik Stenson
In golf, Sweden has quite the reputation on the women’s side. Male success, in comparison, has been scarcer. Exception to the rule: Henrik Stenson. With his 2016 British Open triumph, Stenson wrote history as Sweden’s first and, to date, only male winner of a major championship. He did it at the ripe age of 40, beating Phil Mickelson in a duel widely regarded as some of the best golf ever played.
Stenson also took silver at the 2016 Rio Olympics and, for the second time in his career, won the 2016 Race to Dubai, the season-long competition that crowns the European Tour’s number one player.
8. Jonas Jerebko
There are more known Swedish athletes than Jonas Jerebko, but few are taller. And few get to aim for American sports glory quite like the 2.08 metres tall basketball forward did.
Following spells with Detroit Pistons, Boston Celtics and Utah Jazz, Jerebko joined giants Golden State Warriors in the summer of 2018. With the Californian club he challenged for a National Basketball Association (NBA) title – the grand prize of the sport – reaching the 2019 final, where Toronto Raptors proved too strong.
Jerebko then had a short spell at Russian club BC Khimki. He is without club at the moment, but we're pretty sure he'll be back the autumn of 2021 – in Europe or North America.
9. Nilla Fischer
Nilla Fischer signed with VfL Wolfsburg in 2013 and won both the Bundesliga and the Champions League during her first season. Another Bundesliga title followed in 2017 and Fischer went on to captain the team. In 2019, she returned to her Swedish club Linköping where she plays today.
She made her national team debut back in 2001, aged only 16. With the Sweden team, she won the 2019 World Cup bronze.
In 2018, Fischer received the Diamond Ball as Sweden’s best female player. An outspoken advocate of both women’s football and LGBTQ rights, this is what she said in her acceptance speech: ‘If I stood here today as a man, with the career I’ve had, I would never have to worry financially, nor would my children.’
10. 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, and has dominated her sport like perhaps no other Swede over the last decade.
At the time of writing, Sjöström has won 11 World Championship titles, counting both long- and short-course events. And we dare say the count won’t stop there, if she gets back to her best. Sjöström broke her elbow in a slip accident in early 2021.
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.
For a while, Sjöström held eight world records simultaneously – a record in itself.
11. 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 back at AC Milan – where he will also play during the 2021–2022 season. Born in 1981, forever young!