The 2004 Olympic high jump champion and four-time world indoor champion from Sweden takes a step back in time and offers some wise words to his teenage self.
Be patient. For a 15-month period from the age of 16 you have improved hugely from 1.83m to 2.09m but for the next 15 months you fail to set another PB. Please, stay calm, I promise your time will come. Learn to trust the process. You may not have set a PB, but you have made improvements in bounding and lifting weights. It is important to focus on these little goals. It is going well.
You recently failed to qualify for the 1992 World U20 Championships in Seoul. Of course, it’s frustrating to not achieve the goals you have set yourself, but try not to dwell on the disappointment and look at the bigger picture.
Remember, the long-term goal is not about performing well at age-group championships, it is about performing well as a senior athlete at the World Championships and Olympic Games.
Being coached by your father may not always be easy. It will occasionally cause tension. But you’ll remember this experience and later, when you will coach your son, you will be able to understand things from his perspective.
You are quite shy, but high jumping gives you confidence and security, allowing you to evolve as a person. During your school years your English is terrible and does not come easily to you, but, again, don’t worry. Your high jump career will give you the opportunity to develop and improve your English as you’ll have to conduct press conferences and interviews in English.
I know too as a high jumper you are big fan of Patrick Sjoberg, your fellow Swede. However, being a shorter jumper, you also admire Charles Austin, Hollis Conway and Soren Matei of Romania, especially the way Soren can flip head over heels on to the mat after some jumps. Continue working on that skill – as you become faster and stronger, you will eventually master the technique.
So, Stefan, stick with it, be patient and keep on working. High jump will give you so much and allow you to see the world beyond your small hometown of Forshaga.
There will come a day when Daley Thompson, your childhood sporting hero, will come up to you and ask for your picture. That will be an amazing moment and will show how far you have come.
With Steve Landells