For The Record

Issue 14 2015


Olympic gold medallist Stefan Holm tells us how he got his start in athletics and shares his thoughts on life after competition.

What is your earliest sporting memory?

I probably saw sports before this, but my earliest memory of sport is the FIFA World Cup in 1982 in Spain. The Brazilian team was absolutely fantastic! I fell in love with their team and have supported them ever since at every World Cup. It was really difficult for me to watch the 1994 World Cup when Sweden met Brazil twice!

How and when did you get into athletics?

After watching the inaugural World Athletics Championships in Helsinki in 1983 and the Olympic Games of 1984 in Los Angeles, I got really excited about track and field. I started out jumping in my neighbour’s backyard. Together we had our own little Olympic Games, I then started to high jump at the gym class and then started training in track and field at the age of 11-and-a-half.

Is your family involved in sport?

My father was a goalkeeper for a local football team in Sweden, and that definitely helped keep sport in my life with a weekly reminder at the least!

What was your favourite Olympic moment?

Cathy Freeman. 400m final. Sydney 2000. Hands down, one of the most magical moments I have ever experienced during the Olympic Games. The stadium was packed and cheering her on, and the atmosphere was electric with excitement! It was very special for me also because it was my first time competing at the Olympic Games and I had seen her lighting the Olympic Cauldron at the Opening Ceremony.

Can you describe how you felt winning a gold medal at Athens 2004?

Oh! That was my best moment in my whole athletics career. I was having a great season leading up to the Games, but also felt a lot of pressure because of it. At the finals I failed twice at the 2.34m before jumping it in my third and then 2.36m in my first to win the medal. I had been dreaming about this for 20 years, ever since I was jumping with Magnus in the backyard!

How did you find the transition from athlete to post-athletic career after you retired?

It was rather easy for me, compared to others. I had a plan in place to retire right after the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. I didn’t know exactly what I would do after it, but after a month of doing nothing I received an offer from Karlstad University. I was a student there and they had a great team, so I joined. It was important for me that I knew I would retire from athletics and not just fall out because of injury or old age.

You worked for Swedish television as an athletics expert – what did that involve?

Well, it was only for a year during 2013 when I was a commentator for the television programme for the World Championships and European Championships. It was a fun experience and I learned a lot from it, but at the time decided to focus on other things, because that is when I joined the IOC Athletes’ Commission.

Can you please tell us more about the projects that you have been involved with in the IOC Athletes’ Commission?

On the IOC Athletes’ Commission we are doing some really interesting work, especially in the area of transition as we are realising that it is a challenge that many athletes face. It is wonderful to have an opportunity to give back on a global scale. It will be an important year for us, especially with Rio just around the corner, and I will look to contribute as much as I can.

Finally, tell our readers what you like to do to relax.

I love to read, so books are a sure way to relax, but more than that, I am a Lego fan. If you ever see me stressed out or having a lousy day, give me a Lego set and it will turn my frown upside down. I still do a bit of training with the athletes I coach but not jumping as high, and I also play football more.

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