For Sophie Hansson, family is always close at hand – even on a pool deck thousands of miles away from home.
Sophie’s older sister Louise also represents Sweden on the international stage with the pair competing at the 2016 and 2020 Olympics.
The sisters formed half the quartet that won gold in the women’s 4x50m medley relay at the 2021 World Short-Course Championships in Abu Dhabi, matching the USA’s world record of 1:42.38.
Brother Gustaf swims in the US collegiate system while father Lars-Olof competed before turning to coaching.
“Being a part of a family like this is a positive thing,” said Sophie. “My sister and I don’t race the same events and don’t really have to compete against each other. People outside compare us more than we do.”
Success in Abu Dhabi followed gold in the 100m breaststroke at the European Championships in May 2021.
Sophie set a national record of 1:05.69 in the semifinal which she matched in the final to become only the second Swedish woman to win the continental title and the first since Emma Igelström in 2002.
“Honestly, I’m speechless,” she said. “But I feel very grateful for all those around me – only a few weeks ago I tried to get my time under 1:07 and now I’m under 1:06 so all my hard training paid off.”
Sophie studied and competed at North Carolina State where she was NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) 100m & 200m breaststroke champion.
She has moved to Loughborough University in Britain but credited her time in the USA as key to her development.
“I don’t think I would be where I am today if it weren’t for NC State,” she said.