Paralympic Winter Games
7-16 March

Sweden’s Stefan Olsson goes from wheelchair tennis to sledge hockey

The Paralympic gold medallist has made the switch to the ice for Sochi 2014. 10 Mar 2014
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Stefan Olsson and Peter Vikstrom

Stefan Olsson and Peter Vikstrom of Sweden celebrate winning gold in the wheelchair tennis men's doubles competition at London 2012.

ⒸGetty Images
By Ryan McKenna | For the IPC

“It’s completely different. From being in a wheelchair and putting balls in the corners, instead of getting into a sledge it’s a completely different story. It’s a lot of fun but I have to get a lot better.”

Ice sledge hockey and wheelchair tennis are, to say the least, two polar opposite sports.

The only contact being made in wheelchair tennis is the tennis ball hitting tightly knit strings on a racket and sending the ball over the net.

In sledge hockey, contact ranges from big body checks, battling for body positioning in front of the net, to a crisp pass along the ice that hits the tape of the stick.

Even with the major differences, Sweden’s Stefan Olsson, a gold medallist from the London 2012 Paralympic Games in men’s wheelchair tennis doubles with partner Peter Vikstrom, has made it to the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in a sledge, not a wheelchair.

“I started about six months ago,” Olsson, a forward, said. “Another friend started as well at the same time, he went to training camp but had an unfortunate go that weekend but he said it was the funniest thing he had ever tried so I had to try it as well.”

After his first two Paralympic matches in a sledge, Olsson was disappointed with the two Swedish losses but is enjoying the opportunity.

“It was awesome. I didn’t get a lot of playing time but I’m really happy with my performance and I’m here to support the team and try the best,” Olsson said.

Sweden entered Sochi 2014 as the eighth seed in Group A and after a 10-1 loss in their opening game against Canada, and a 2-1 shoot-out loss on Day 2 to Czech Republic, will play in one of Wednesday’s (12 March) classification game no matter how they fare in their final Group game.

Normally, Olsson is used to all kinds of success. Along with his two Paralympic medals to date, the 26-year-old from Sundborn, Sweden, was ranked in 2011 by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) as the second-best wheelchair tennis singles player in the world.

His doubles game is pretty good as well. In 2008, he ranked as high up as fourth in the world in wheelchair tennis and has a career record of 220-124.

Making the switch from one normal partner in doubles tennis to 10 other players in the dressing room of a hockey rink can be different, but it is something that Olsson has embraced.

“It’s been quite easy,” Olsson said. “It’s a good team to get in with. The guys are great and we’re like a family so it’s been great.

“It’s completely different. From being in a wheelchair and putting balls in the corners, instead of getting into a sledge it’s a completely different story. It’s a lot of fun but I have to get a lot better.”

Sweden close out their Group A preliminary round schedule on Tuesday (11 March) when they take on Norway at 13:00 (MSK).