Next eventOlympic GamesParis-St-Denis 20241 Aug 2024

Series02 Jun 2024


Path to Paris: Perseus Karlstrom

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Swedish race walker Perseus Karlstrom (© Francesca Grana)

The road to sporting glory often leads through ups and downs. Along the way, there are key milestones that every athlete passes.

In the first instalment of a new series where athletes reflect on five key steps on their path to the Paris Olympic Games, Swedish race walker Perseus Karlstrom recounts the journey that has got him to this point in his career.

 

I was inspired by my mom to start the sport…

…It’s funny because I never actually knew she was one of the best in the world until I was in my mid-teens. All of her medals were hidden away in a box, and she had some trophies around the house but they were used as flower pots. The first time I saw her medal from the 1986 European Championships was when our city had an exhibition of sporting legends.

My mom was also the one who brought me and my siblings to my first race when I was seven years old.

Perseus Karlstrom with his mother Siw

Perseus Karlstrom with his mother Siw

 

It was in September 1997 when I had my first competition…

…I still remember everything about that race. When we arrived, I saw they had a table full of different prizes laid out, and they explained that if you won your race, you get to choose first. There was a wooden hand-made train that I was really wanted. I noticed that another boy beside me also told his parents that he wanted to win the train. But that just made me extra motivated to do whatever I could to win that train.

I managed to finish first in that race, and I got to choose the train. It was on display in my room up until the age of 20, and I still have it to this day.

 

One of the most significant turning points in my career came in 2014…

…Even though I competed at some international age-group championships, I didn’t train too intensely as a junior. I always knew, though, that I had potential to become one of the best one day. I started to increase my training when I became a senior athlete in 2010 and I improved a lot that year, but then I got injured.

The Swedish Olympic Committee has a talent programme for athletes. I was nominated to take part in their screening process, which involves an interview and some physiology testing. I told them that I had aspirations to be one of the best in the world. They told me: “You say that, but your training data doesn’t suggest that you actually want to be one of the best in the world. So are you just saying it, or do you actually want to be the best in the world?”

I realised they were totally correct, and I wasn’t investing as much time as I could. So in 2015 I once again increased my training volume and continued to do so over 2016 and 2017. It was during that time that I had my big breakthrough, winning my first international race (clocking a national record of 1:19:11 in Podebrady) and qualifying for the Rio Olympics.

Perseus Karlstrom on the podium in Podebrady

Perseus Karlstrom on the podium in Podebrady

 

Had it not been for the pandemic, my coaching set-up would be very different right now…

…I started working with Australian coach Brent Vallance in 2018. At that point, I’d built up my body to endure an increased training load, and I felt it was a good time to take my career in a new direction. Changing to a coach who was one of the best in the world proved to be a very good decision, and it resulted with world bronze in 2019.

But the years of the pandemic, and in particular my experience at the Tokyo Olympics, were very challenging. Brent and I still had a great coach-athlete relationship, but Australia was still in lockdown which made things very difficult, and I wasn’t a very happy athlete. At that point we had no idea how long the pandemic would last, so after the Olympics we took the decision to switch coach to help me become a happy athlete again.

At the end of 2021 I started working with Rob Heffernan. I figured I’d give it a year to see if it’s working for the current Olympic cycle, and thankfully it is.

Perseus Karlstrom with Brent Vallance and Rob Heffernan

Perseus Karlstrom with Brent Vallance and Rob Heffernan

 

Winning in Antalya was an important confidence boost ahead of the Paris 2024 Olympic Games…

…One thing I’ve focused on doing in recent years is putting myself in environments that I enjoy where I can truly thrive. That determines where I go on training camps and who I go there with, because the main focus is always on being happy.

That’s very much been the case this season and it has resulted in some great performances. My victory at the World Race Walking Team Championships in Antalya is a direct result of me always being in a positive environment.

I’m continuing to build upon that leading into the European Championships in Rome and then the Paris Olympics.

Perseus Karlstrom celebrates his 20km win at the World Athletics Race Walking Team Championships Antalya 24

Perseus Karlstrom celebrates his 20km win at the World Athletics Race Walking Team Championships Antalya 24 (© Sergio Mateo)

 

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