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Bronze icing on Anders Olsson's birthday cake

Swedish swimmer Anders Olsson celebrated his 44th birthday on Monday by capping off two gold medals he won earlier in the Beijing Paralympics with a bronze.

Olsson fought it out against three strong Chinese opponents in the men`s 50m freestyle S6 to touch the wall in third place, adding to his wins in the 100m and 400m freestyle last week.

"After the morning heat, I thought I had no chance of winning a medal because the Chinese swimmers were so strong," he said. "But I am satisfied.

Sweden`s Anders Olsson (right) congratulates China`s Xu Qing after the men`s 50m freestyle S6 final yesterday. Xu won the gold and Olsson the bronze. [China Daily]

"I really appreciate this bronze, as it has a special meaning to me because it comes on my birthday."

Olsson, who specializes in long distance swimming and who requires two operations on injuries when he returns home, admitted age was beginning to catch up with him.

"Competing with swimmers more than two decades younger than me is tough work, but it also brings me a lot of fun and I`d like to keep on."

Olsson is known as a Swedish role model not only because of his exemplary sportsmanship but for his iron resolve to overcome all obstacles.

A sportsman all his life, Olsson was an accomplished triathlete and ice hockey player before a medical accident during an operation left him paralyzed from the waist down 12 years ago.

After lying in bed for seven years, an old friend challenged him to swim in a 3km open water race in 2002 and he hasn`t stopped rolling his arms over since.

"I didn`t expect I could do it, but my friend gave me the confidence to challenge myself," he said.

After training for two months, Olsson finished the race in 98th place among 2,775 swimmers, leaving the friend who challenged him more than seven minutes behind.

"I used swimming as a rehabilitation method first, as it largely eased my pain," he said.

"But now when I look back, I found that it was swimming that gave me a second life.

"In the swimming pool, I can stand and feel as free as other people," he added.

After bagging a gold and a bronze at the Athens Paralympics, Olsson resolved to push himself even harder and began to train for Ironman.

Consisting of a 3.8km swim, 180km of cycling and a 42km run, it is widely regarded as the toughest sport in the world.

Last year, Olsson finished 4th in the Antwerp 70.3 Ironman competition, which gave him the confidence to try and qualify for the Hawaiin Ironman World Championships next year.

"I will go back to Sweden and have two operations on the injuries in my shoulder and back," he said.

"After that, I will definitely come back again."

Date:2008-9-16 10:28:00     
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