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The Most Famous

ATHLETES from Sweden

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This page contains a list of the greatest Swedish Athletes. The pantheon dataset contains 3,059 Athletes, 131 of which were born in Sweden. This makes Sweden the birth place of the 6th most number of Athletes behind United Kingdom and France.

Top 10

The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the top 10 most legendary Swedish Athletes of all time. This list of famous Swedish Athletes is sorted by HPI (Historical Popularity Index), a metric that aggregates information on a biography’s online popularity. Visit the rankings page to view the entire list of Swedish Athletes.

Photo of Eric Lemming

1. Eric Lemming (1880 - 1930)

With an HPI of 53.67, Eric Lemming is the most famous Swedish Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 26 different languages on wikipedia.

Eric Otto Valdemar Lemming (22 February 1880 – 5 June 1930) was a Swedish track and field athlete who competed at the 1900, 1906, 1908 and 1912 Olympics in a wide variety of events, which mostly involved throwing and jumping. He had his best results in the javelin throw, which he won at the 1906–1912 Games, and in which he set multiple world records between 1899 and 1912. His last record, measured at 62.32 m, was ratified by the International Association of Athletics Federations as the first official world record. Javelin throw was not part of the 1900 Olympics, where Lemming finished fourth in the hammer throw, high jump and pole vault. At the 1906 Intercalated Games he won a gold medal in the javelin throw and three bronze medals, in the shot put, tug of war and ancient pentathlon, which consisted of a standing long jump, discus throw (ancient style), javelin throw, 192 m run, and a Greco-Roman wrestling match. He also finished fourth in the discus throw and stone throwing contests.At the 1908 Olympics, Lemming won two gold medals in two types of javelin throw, and finished eighth in the hammer throw. He won another gold medal in the javelin at his last Olympics in 1912, where his half-brother Oscar placed tenth in pentathlon. Lemming died on 5 June 1930 at the age of 50.

Photo of Oscar Swahn

2. Oscar Swahn (1847 - 1927)

With an HPI of 52.87, Oscar Swahn is the 2nd most famous Swedish Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 28 different languages.

Oscar Gomer Swahn (20 October 1847 – 1 May 1927) was a Swedish shooter who competed at three Olympic games and won six medals, including three gold. Swahn holds records as the oldest Olympian at the time of competition, the oldest person to win gold, and the oldest person to win an Olympic medal.

Photo of John Ljunggren

3. John Ljunggren (1919 - 2000)

With an HPI of 51.29, John Ljunggren is the 3rd most famous Swedish Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 25 different languages.

John Arthur Ljunggren (9 September 1919 – 13 January 2000) was a Swedish race walker. He competed in the 50 kilometer event at the 1948, 1952, 1956, 1960 and 1964 Olympics and finished in first, ninth, third, second and 16th place, respectively. At the European Championships he won a gold medal in 1946, a silver medal in 1950, and finished fourth in 1954 and fifth in 1962.Ljunggren got used to long walks as a child, along with his brothers Verner and Gunnar, as they did not have bicycles. He was known for his walking technique, and was never disqualified during his 499 races. He also competed nationally in cycling, orienteering, running and cross-country skiing. Ljunggren was used to hot, but not cold weather; so he got cramps in the cold Helsinki at the 1952 Olympics and finished ninth. At the 1960 Games in Rome, a friendly race official poured a bucket of ice water close to the finish; Ljunggren cramped again and finished second. At the 1956 Olympics he got a bad infection in a toe before the final race, yet managed to finish third.Ljunggren continued race walking until 1984, and won the 20 km event at the 1977 World Championships in the masters category. An accountant by trade, he was deeply religious.

Photo of Nils von Kantzow

4. Nils von Kantzow (1885 - 1967)

With an HPI of 51.28, Nils von Kantzow is the 4th most famous Swedish Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 16 different languages.

Nils Gustav von Kantzow (30 August 1885 – 7 November 1967) was a Swedish gymnast who competed in the 1908 Summer Olympics. He was a member of the Swedish team that won the all-around gold medal. He was born in a noble family and reached the rank of captain in the Swedish Army in 1916.In 1910 von Kantzow married Carin Axelina Hulda Fock, but they were later separated. Their only child, Thomas von Kantzow, was born in 1913. A few days after their divorce in December 1922, Carin married the German airline pilot Hermann Göring, who later became a leader of the Nazi Party.

Photo of August Nilsson

5. August Nilsson (1872 - 1921)

With an HPI of 50.58, August Nilsson is the 5th most famous Swedish Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 22 different languages.

August Nilsson (October 15, 1872 in Trollenäs – May 23, 1921 in Stockholm) was a Swedish track and field athlete and tug of war competitor who competed at the 1900 Summer Olympics in Paris, France.

Photo of Georg Åberg

6. Georg Åberg (1893 - 1946)

With an HPI of 49.73, Georg Åberg is the 6th most famous Swedish Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 19 different languages.

Nils Georg Åberg (20 January 1893 – 18 August 1946) was a Swedish athlete who competed at the 1912 Olympics. He won a bronze medal in the long jump and placed second in the triple jump, in which Sweden collected all three medals. He won the long jump event at the Swedish Games in 1916 and at the national championships in 1912, 1913 and 1915. After retiring from competitions he directed his own firm.

Photo of Gert Fredriksson

7. Gert Fredriksson (1919 - 2006)

With an HPI of 49.44, Gert Fredriksson is the 7th most famous Swedish Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 24 different languages.

Gert Fridolf Fredriksson (21 November 1919 – 5 July 2006) was a Swedish sprint canoeist. Competing in four Summer Olympics, he won eight medals including six golds (1948: K-1 1000 m, K-1 10000 m; 1952: K-1 1000 m, 1956: K-1 1000 m, K-1 10000 m; 1960: K-2 1000 m), one silver (1952: K-1 10000 m), and one bronze (K-1 1000 m). At the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Fredriksson was head coach of the Swedish team. He was the most successful male canoeist ever, having gained medals in a succession of Swedish, Nordic, World and Olympic championships from 1942 to 1960. With six gold medals Fredriksson remains the most successful Swede at the Olympics.He also won seven gold medals at the World Championships and 71 medals in the Swedish championships.Fredriksson was awarded the Svenska Dagbladet Gold Medal in 1949. In 1956 he was awarded the Mohammad Taher trophy by the International Olympic Committee as the number one sportsman in the world, the only canoeist to be presented with this trophy.

Photo of Karl Staaf

8. Karl Staaf (1881 - 1953)

With an HPI of 49.24, Karl Staaf is the 8th most famous Swedish Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 21 different languages.

Karl Gustaf Vilhelm Staaf (April 6, 1881 – February 15, 1953) was a Swedish track and field athlete and tug of war competitor who competed at the 1900 Summer Olympics. He was born in Stockholm and died in Motala.He finished seventh in the pole vault competition and fifth in the hammer throw event. In the triple jump event and in the standing triple jump event his exact results are unknown. He also participated on the Dano-Swedish tug of war team which won the gold medal against opponents France. These were the first Olympic gold medals for Sweden. Staaf represented Djurgårdens IF.

Photo of Henrik Sjöberg

9. Henrik Sjöberg (1875 - 1905)

With an HPI of 48.98, Henrik Sjöberg is the 9th most famous Swedish Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 21 different languages.

Kristian Henrik Rudolf Sjöberg (20 January 1875 in Stockholm – 1 August 1905 in Helsingør) was a Swedish athlete, gymnast and medical student. He competed as the only Swedish participant at the 1896 Summer Olympics in Athens. Sjöberg from 1892 competed for Stockholm AF, and in the same year he held the unofficial Swedish record for the long jump with 6.09 metres, even though he completely lacked the support from the Swedish Sports Confederation he refused to see himself omitted from the first Olympic Games.At the 1896 Summer Olympics, Sjöberg competed in five different events, one on the athletics track, three in the athletics field and one as a gymnast, on the track he competed in the 100 metres, his time is unknown and records only show he finished in fourth or fifth place in his heat so didn't qualify for the final. In the athletics field he competed in the discus, his distance is unknown and finished outside the top four, in the long jump, again his distance is unknown and was placed outside the top four, his best result was in the high jump where he cleared 1.60 metres to finish in fourth place just 5 centimetres short of a medal.Sjöberg also competed in the vault event in the gymnastics with 14 other competitors, in which they had two minutes to carry out as many jumps as they wished, again no score or position is recorded for his efforts.Sjöberg drowned in the eastern Denmark town of Helsingør in 1905.

Photo of Ann-Britt Leyman

10. Ann-Britt Leyman (1922 - 2013)

With an HPI of 48.25, Ann-Britt Leyman is the 10th most famous Swedish Athlete.  Her biography has been translated into 18 different languages.

Ann-Britt Leyman (later Olsson; 10 June 1922 – 5 January 2013) was a Swedish sprinter and long jumper who won a bronze medal in the long jump at the 1948 Summer Olympics.Leyman never won a national long jump title, but she won 15 national sprint championships: in the 80 m (1941), 100 m (1942–44 and 1946–49) and 200 m (1942–47 and 1949). At the 1946 European Athletics Championships she finished fourth-sixth in the 100 m, 200 m and 4 × 100 m relay events.

Pantheon has 131 people classified as athletes born between 1847 and 1999. Of these 131, 51 (38.93%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living athletes include Patrik Sjöberg, Anders Gärderud, and Irma Johansson. The most famous deceased athletes include Eric Lemming, Oscar Swahn, and John Ljunggren. As of April 2022, 64 new athletes have been added to Pantheon including Lars Hall, Gösta Andersson, and Karl-Erik Nilsson.

Living Athletes

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Deceased Athletes

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Newly Added Athletes (2022)

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Which Athletes were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 25 most globally memorable Athletes since 1700.