Anders Olsson, Swimmer

Anders "Iron Man" Olsson

For the world chamption Anders “Iron Man” Olsson there are no obstacles, only opportunities.

After having suffered unfortunate circumstances in his health care, Anders Olsson is paralysed from the waist down. This led to several difficult years for Anders when he was bed-ridden and close to losing hope and belief in the future. Luckily he was encouraged by a friend and this really gave him a push in the right direction.

“Hagfors Swimming Pool became my salvation”

Today the native of Hagfors Anders Olsson works to inspire others to believe in themselves and to instill in them the hope that everything is possible. The difference is what you do yourself, he believes. Perhaps it is growing up in Hagfors that characterised his enterprise and fighting spirit. Anders has won major successes not just as an athlete but also as a human through his hard work in improving himself and achieving his goals. Anders’ speciality is marathon swimming and during 2008 he achieved his goal as the ninth man among 3,000 non-disabled people in Vansbrosimningen. His many awards and achievements really do give reason for his nickname, the Iron Man from Hagfors.

Despite being a five-time gold medalist in the Paralympics and world champion in swimming, the high-point in Andrs Olsson’s life was played out at home in Hagfors.

“Nothing beats when I swam the whole Klarälven"

Värmland does not have any shortage of sporting pride, but the achievements of the native of Hagfors Anders Olsson are something out of the ordinary. He has taken five Paralympic golds, become world champion in swimming, completed the Vasaloppet on a bobsleigh and come ninth place in the Vansbrosimningen. He is convinced that his upbringing and the atmosphere in Hagfors played a major role in his success.

“It’s sometimes difficult when people know each other, but I think this has been a big help. What other place in Sweden can you be given your own key to the swimming pool to to carry out specialist training when it’s closed? It’s only in a small place like this where this can happen and I don’t think this would have happened anywhere else. This has been my salvation”, says Anders.

The whole of Anders’ upbringing was characterised by an inclusive culture where anybody could and did try anything.

“The whole of my childhood was very sporty. I have never had any problems being in any club, which I have heard can happen in cities. I have had the opportunity to try many different things and this has been immensely positive.

In 2013 when Anders wanted to arrange Camp Iron Man (Camp Järnmannen), an athletics camp for young people with disabilities, he decided on a challenge. If he managed to collect the 500,000 Kronor that was required to implement the camp, he would swim the whole Klarälven, a distance of an impressive 28 miles. When the sponsors and the general public had contributed the half million it was clear that Anders had to fulfil his promise.

“I chose Klarälven because I learned to swim there and because I would get to swim past all the places where I grew up. It was a really intense experience that I am happy to have done! There were over 100 of us volunteers, something that is certainly difficult to do in many other towns.

Despite being true to Hagfors for the whole of his life and not having lived anywhere else, he is certain that Hagfors is his place in the world.

“I have always chosen to live here. The only problem now when I sit in my chair is the winter and the snow. I do of course have a lot of problems with the cold, but this is also the only obstacle that I know of. But I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else because of this, but perhaps have an apartment in another place during the cold months when the cold gets too much.

If you had to choose a favourite moment in your life that took place in Värmland, what would it be?

“Actually there is nothing to beat swimming Klarälven. I really got to see the engagement that the people in Hagfors and the rest of Värmland showed and how much they cared. The whole way from the Norwegian border down to the finish line in Karlstad there were nearly 20,000 people who cheered and pushed me on. It was more than what Färjestad had when they won the SM gold!

Anders’ top Värmland tip:

Cycling the Klarälv Trail (Klarälvsbanan) is something you must try when you come here. It’s really beautiful, absolutely quiet and you just whistle along. Start in Karlstad and travel up here or vice versa. Along the way you will pass many small fine places, fantastic nature and wild animals if you are lucky.

The Klarälv Trail is a 90 km long surfaced embankment that is free of motor vehicles that extends from Karlstad to Hagfors. To the south the trail is linked to the cycle path to Mörudden on Hammarö and to the north with the Klarälv Path (Klarälvsleden) to Sysslebäck. Together they form a 220 km long cycle and footpath from Vänern to the wilderness. Read more at klaralvsbanan.se.

Text: Fridah Jönsson

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