October Swimmer of the Month: Sarah Sjöström
Who is Sarah Sjöström?
Sarah Sjöström is a freestyle and butterfly sprinter born in Sweden. She currently holds 6 world records, 10 World Championship titles, and 22 European Championship titles. Sarah also became Sweden’s first Olympic gold medalist in swimming when she won the 100m butterfly at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.
Sarah has been honoured with multiple awards by various organizations throughout the years. Some of her awards include Female Swimmer of the Year, European Swimmer of the Year, Swedish Female Swimmer of the Year, and more.
Sarah's Claim to Fame
At the age of 14, Sarah won her 1st international gold medal in the 100m butterfly at the 2008 European Championships. Since then, she has continued her rise to the top, earning top spots in major swimming competitions and smashing world records along the way.
- 2018 European Championships: 3 golds (100 fly, 50 and 100 free)
- 2017 World Championships: 3 golds (50 and 100 fly, 50 free), 1 silver (100 free)
- 2016 Olympic Games: 1 gold (100 fly), 1 silver (200 free), 1 bronze (10 free)
- 2016 European Championships: 3 golds (50 and 100 fly, 50 free), 1 bronze (400 freestyle relay)
- 2015 World Championships: 2 golds (50 and 100 fly), 2 silver (100 free and 400 medley relay), 1 bronze (50 free)
- 2014 Short Course World Championships: 3 golds (50 and 100 fly, 200 free), 1 silver (100 free)
- 2014 European Championships: 3 golds (100 free, 50 fly, 400 freestyle relay), 4 silver (50 free, 100 fly, 800 freestyle relay, 400 medley relay)
- 2013 World Championships: 1 gold (100 fly), 1 silver (100 free)
- 2012 European Championships: 2 golds (50 fly, 100 free), 1 silver (400 freestyle relay)
- 2010 European Championships: 1 gold (100 fly), 1 silver (400 medley relay), 1 bronze (400 freestyle relay)
- 2009 World Championships: 1 gold (100 fly)
- 2008 European Championships: 1 gold (100 fly)
- Long course:
- 50m free (23.67) and 100m free (51.71)
- 50m fly (24.43) and 100m fly (55.48)
- Short course:
- 200m free (1:50.43)
- 100m fly (54.61)
We looked at Sarah Sjöström’s metrics in the 100m butterfly and 100m freestyle at both the 2016 Rio Olympics and 2017 FINA World Championships to see how her metrics compared to her competitors, and analyzed the similarities and differences in her metrics across the 2 competitions to learn how these changes impacted her overall performance.
100 fly: Sarah’s speed in the 100 fly was above average at both races, which translated into a significant lead. She finished at least 0.65 seconds ahead of the field at the World Championships and almost a full second ahead at the Olympics.
100 free: Sarah swam a faster 100 free in 2017 compared to 2016. In 2017, she improved her speed in the 1st 50, and maintained her 2nd lap speed, lowering her overall time by 0.68 seconds.
Stroke Rate, DPS, and Stroke Count
100 fly: In 2017, Sarah stroked at a faster rate with a lower DPS in the 1st lap of the 100 fly, which meant she had to take 1 stroke more than she did in 2016. This strategy gave her a faster 1st 50, lowering her splits by 0.36 seconds. She pulled the same number of strokes on the second half in both years, but in 2016, her DPS had a fairly significant decline on the final stretch, while her stroke rate remained consistent. In 2017, there was very minimal change in her stroke rate, and a slight drop in her DPS.
Though her DPS and stroke rate were more consistent in 2017, overall, her strokes produced more distance in 2016, pulled at a slightly slower rate. Compared to the rest of the field, her stroke rate was just slightly faster than average in 2016, and her DPS was just above average in 2017, earning her gold in both races.
100 free: In the 1st lap of the 100 free at the World Championships, Sarah simultaneously increased her DPS and stroke rate, taking 1 less stroke and lowering her split compared to the previous year. Her stroke count on the second lap was consistent from 2016 to 2017, though her DPS dropped and stroking speed increased in 2017.
Overall, Sarah pulled at a lower DPS but faster stroke rate than her competitors.
100 fly: Sarah’s higher DPS in 2016 compared to her swim in 2017 translated to her higher stroke index in Rio. But in both years, she had one of the most efficient butterfly in the field, generating a higher stroke index than the heat average.
100 free: Sarah had a less efficient freestyle compared to her heat, but her stroke index saw an improvement from 2016 to 2017.
Time Underwater and Turn Time
On average, Sarah turned slightly slower and spent less time underwater than her competitors.
100 fly: In 2017, she improved her turn time, but spent longer time underwater before breaking out, compared to 2016.
100 free: Her turn time slowed, but underwater time increased from 2016 to 2017.
Personal strategies for the same race distance can vary across different strokes.
The 100m fly and 100m free are both sprint events, but Sarah approached them in different ways. In her butterfly races, she went for high DPS and good stroke efficiency, and in her freestyle races, she went lower efficiency with faster stroke rate. Both strategies earned her top spots in all 4 races.
It’s not always about swimming with the best metrics.
Sarah won gold in the 100 fly at both the 2016 Olympics and 2017 World Championships, but other than generating the fastest speed, her metrics didn’t necessarily stand out on their own. She didn’t have the highest DPS, the fastest stroke rate or the most efficient strokes. But, she was able to bring them all together to produce an exceptional, world record-breaking performance.