Jonas Hedman, the founder of www.friidrottaren.com, a site dedicated to track & field in Sweden and Scandinavia, wrote this piece on the Swedish team as they arrive in Rio for the Summer Olympics. Here is his preview to the Rio Olympics with a particularly Swedish focus.
Susanna Kallur leads Swedish team of 16 athletes in Rio
On Wednesday 100m hurdler Susanna Kallur, 35, landed in Rio, which means that an eight year long journey, with a lot of injuries has come to an end. The reigning World indoor record holder at 60m hurdles is not a medal contender, but it’s quite remarkable that she even made it back to the track, and again is running with the best.
Kallur reached the semifinal in both Athens 2004 and Seoul 2008 when she crashed into the first hurdle. She was World ranked number 2 in 2007 and set the still standing World indoor record in February 2008 (7.68), but has since then been struggling with several surgeries in her lower right leg. The injury was healed in 2014, but in February 2015 the leg started to hurt again and it still did as late as in October. But finally, in December, everything felt good again and she started hurdle training in April.
Semifinal in the Euro championships
On June 16 Kallur ran her first race at 100m hurdles since 2010 when finishing fifth at Stockholm Diamond League in 13.00 behind winner Kendra Harrsion (12.66). In the European Championships in Amsterdam, Netherlands, a month ago Kallur reached the semifinal and was only 0.05 from a spot in the final. Her season best is 12.91 from the end of June which means she didn’t reach the Swedish Olympic Committe’s qualification mark of 12.80, but she got a ticket to Rio anyway.
During the last month Kallur has been preparing for the Games and only raced once which was in a small meet in Karlstad, Sweden, on 27 July when she, during a training period, clocked 13.06.
“It’s almost an unreal feeling being here! Rio has been my goal for so many years! Physically it feels as good as it can. My preparations have gone very well since my comeback in June and I believe I can run faster than my season best of 12.91. From now on, I will focus on having a good time here in Rio and get inspired by all the athletes from around the world,” says Susanna Kallur.
The 100m hurdles heats starts on Tuesday.
Michel TornÃ©us is looking for revenge
Susanna Kallur is one of 16 Swedish athletes in Rio and there are three or four of them which have the capacity to reach the podium. One of them is long jumper Michel TornÃ©us, 30, who was fourth in London 2012, only one centimeter from the bronze medal and six behind the silver. He was third in the World indoors in 2014 and jumped 8.30m during the 2015 indoor season, but had a hard time to reach the Oly qualifier 8.15m this year.
His last chance was the European championships in Amsterdam in the beginning of July where he jumped a windy 8.19m in the qualification and then took silver in the final with 8.21m, four centimeters behind Olympic champ Greg Rutherford. But the wind gauge showed a tail wind of 2.1 m/s which meant he missed out on a legal qualification mark for Rio with the smallest of margins – 0.1 m/s. TornÃ©us really had mixed feelings after the medal ceremony.
“It’s such a strange situation. I am standing here with a silver medal but I am not qualified for the Olympics”, he said.
Three days later, a friend organized a long jump meet for him at high altitude in Sierra Nevada, Spain, where Michel, on the penultimate day of the qualification period jumped 8.44m in his first and only jump of the day. It was an improvement of his four year old Swedish outdoor record by 22 centimeters and moved him from 202nd to 43rd place on the all-time list!
Daniel StÃ¥hl – a consistent discus thrower
Anoter Swede who could be a medal contender in Rio is discus thrower Daniel StÃ¥hl, 23, who was fifth at the World championships in Beijing last year only 45 centimeters from the podium. He got fifth place also in this years European championships and has been very consistent throughout the year with an average of 63.53m for his 17 meets (two of them indoors).
In Hungary, in the middle of July, StÃ¥hl set a personal best of 66.92m and had three throws beyond 66 meters. He has thrown 70 meters in practise and if he get his technique to work properly he could make it to the podium. The last time Sweden got an Olympic medal in discus was in Munich 1972 when Ricky Bruch was third.
Meraf Bahta is running 1500m
Meraf Bahta, 27, has set Swedish records at 3000m (8:43.08), 5000m (14:49.95) and 10k road (31:26) this year and took a silver at 5000m at the European championships. For Rio, she had a tough choice between 5000 and 1500m and choosed the shorter distance. The competition might be harder but she is closer to the top and since she has a good kick that was probably the right choice.
Bahta’s season best is 4:02.62 which make her number nine on the ranking list for Rio. She definitely has the capacity to reach the final and if it’s not going too fast she could be up there fighting for a top-three-position.
Angelica Bengtsson in the pole vault
In 2015, pole vaulter Angelica Bengtsson, 23, was fourth at the World championships in Beijing with a national record of 4.70m, which was her breakthrough. She has had injury problems at the back of her thigh and wrist, but overcame the problems during the spring. She has only competed twice this summer – 4.61m in Sollentuna at the end of June and 4.65m in the European championships in Amsterdam where she took bronze – but everything has gone according to plan and she is ready for a new national record.