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NEWS FEATURE Sjostrom shuns superstition to take golden chance in Rio butterfly By Derek Wilson, dpa

Europe
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Heavy favourite Sarah Sjostrom took a new approach to her pre-race routine ahead of the 100m butterfly in Rio Sunday - and it paid off spectacularly.

Rio de Janeiro (dpa) - Elite athletes often talk about the importance of routine so it is somewhat surprising that Sweden‘s Sarah Sjostrom decided to break her usual habit before the biggest race of her life in the Olympics Sunday.

The 22-year-old was the massive favourite in the women‘s 100-metre butterfly but elected to freshen things up before hitting the pool to complete her destiny.

"I swam wearing earrings today, and I‘ve never done that before and I listened to music for the first time before a race," she said afterwards. "Why not?"

Why not indeed if you reduce your own world record to claim a first Olympic medal?

Sjostrom‘s superb victory came in 55.48 seconds to join four world championship gongs, and just for good measure she knocked another 0.16 seconds off her own world record.

"The feeling is totally crazy," she said. "I didn‘t realize it was a world record.

"I knew I was the big favourite. I was under pressure, so I tried to focus on no disasters.

"Before the start I said to myself it‘s just a pool. It‘s nothing. I know what to do. I was not so nervous, I was in a good mood today. I knew the 100-metres butterfly was my big chance."

This was the big chance because though Sjostrom is highly competitive in the freestyle sprints, she has been by far the best in the world at butterfly for some time.

Despite being in her early 20s, Sjostrom has actually been on the major scene since winning the worlds 100m fly in 2009 - but a fourth-place in the event at London 2012 left her out of the Olympic medals.

That race had added disappointment as American Dana Vollmer seized her world record and Sjostrom was left with the choice of licking her wounds or fighting back.

She emphatically chose the latter by winning the 2013 world championship and that competition in Barcelona brought another string to her bow with silver in the 100m freestyle.

Sjostrom retained both in Kazan two years later and added the 50m butterfly title. In Russia she also reclaimed the world record over 100m, adding it to the 50m blue ribbon which was hers since 2014.

Sunday‘s silver medallist Penny Oleksiak was nearly a second behind and Vollmer well beaten down to bronze as Sjostrom flexed her muscles.

"This morning I swam, and this afternoon I played (dice game) Yahtzee with my room-mate," Sjostrom said of her preparation. "I just chilled and took it easy."

Many swimmers would be tempted for the same build-up to the upcoming 50m, 100m and 200m freestyle events in which she also has a strong chance to medal.

But who could blame her for mixing it up again? Sjostrom has already shown that she does not need superstitions to bring home the gold.

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