Currently in her ninth year on the Swedish national team, Louise Karlsson has an impressive competitive history: one world, one European, and a string of Swedish records are hers, with her spot of originality being that she holds a world record in a non-Olympic discipline, the 100 individual medley.
A native of Uddevalla, she has remained unbeatable in the IM since 1992, and after her bronze medal in the 200 IM at the Short Course World Championships in Rio de Janeiro in 1995, was considered highly proficient in the short course pool. "I'm a good starter and I have good turns," she says, "but lately my long course swimming is getting better too."
Karlsson suffered a setback last fall when she contracted a lung infection and was forced to stop swimming for a month and a half. She resumed her training in early December and accompanied the national team to South Africa for a training camp. She made an appearance at the World Cup in Malm, where she surprised herself by equalling her own world best time of 1:01.03 in the 100 m individual medley (set in 1992 at the World Cup in Espoo). "That helped to push me in the right direction again," she says. Her performances in Malm earned her a preselection to the Swedish team to compete in Gteborg.
In preparation for Gteborg, Karlsson spent two weeks training with coach Mike Blondal at the National Sport Centre in Calgary in March. Having trained for two years in 1992-1994 with former Centre coach Deryk Snelling, Karlsson likes the environment there and finds it a good change. "It was really hard training and I did some good preparation there. I think I'm back on track again," she said before the championships.
The momentum was right on. On the final night of competition, Karlsson had her moment, exploding off the start of the 200 IM and never letting up. Two minutes, 11.19 seconds later, she had bettered her own national record to take the gold medal. Just like that. And so what if it was short course? The overall quality of the championships in Gteborg have perhaps helped to dispel the idea of the superiority of the 50 metre course - the two are simply different.
It is worth noting that in addition to her training, Karlsson handles a full-time job as an insurance salesperson. In connection with her work, she is also involved in anti-drug and anti-violence projects, giving occasional talks to schools and companies. Balancing work and a swimming career on her own is not easy, and sometimes she has to sacrifice one to catch up on the other. "I work 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day, so I can only train in the evenings," she says. "It's difficult, but they do let me take time off for competitions. Sometimes I have to skip a couple of workouts if I'm too tired or work piles up."
As for her future in the sport, experience has taught Karlsson to take things one year at a time. She preferred to be cautious about Sevilla before knowing the outcome of Gteborg, but no doubt the new Swedish record will see her head to the Spanish south. On the professional side, apart from expressing an interest in teaching, she adopts the same philosophy: "I'm only 23, so I think I've got lots of time to decide."