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Emma makes waves in foreign waters
Published 11/9/2012 6:00:00 AM
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Academic Media ServicesEmma Johansson swims the butterfly.

Hailing all the way from Bjärred, Sweden, Emma Johansson has made a splash in her three years at WSU.

The junior butterfly and freestyle swimmer spent the last two years growing as a competitor ,and now looks to reach her goals of qualifying for the NCAA Championships, and shatter some school records while she's at it.

Johansson has been swimming since the age of 3. It's “in her genes,” she said, since she grew up in a swimming family. Johansson has close relationships with her parents, both of which have swimming backgrounds, especially with her father Lennart.

“He has really helped me a lot,” Johansson said about her dad. “He is like my external confidence booster. He helps calm my nerves before races and afterwards, whether I’m happy or sad, he always makes me feel better.”

In addition to her parents being swimmers, Johansson said her aunt Maria swam in the 1984 Olympics, an achievement Johansson hopes to accomplish herself someday.

Like most young athletes, Johansson had a role model to whom she looked up to and aspired to be like. In this case, that role model was Swedish swimmer Therese Alshammar.

“When I was younger I looked up to her,” Johansson said. “It’s funny because her old coach from when she was younger actually coached my team for a short time and he told me that I looked just like her. At the time that was really huge for me.”

Most WSU swimmers come from different parts of the state of Washington, but Johansson’s hometown is a little farther than a five-hour drive to the West Side. Johansson was born in Fladie, Sweden and at Simklubben Hajen in Lomma, Sweden.

She admits that coming over to America was scary for her. Johansson considered a variety of schools, but ultimately she felt like WSU was the right move for her.

“I called and emailed a lot of different schools and talked to a bunch of different coaches,” she said. “WSU was just strong academically and, swimming wise, it was like right on my level, so it just seemed like a perfect fit.”

Johansson said the transition from Sweden to the U.S. took a toll on her physically as well as mentally. She had to adjust to a new language in addition to new coaches. Overall, she said her experience here in the states has been a pleasant one, highlighting the strong bond in and out of the pool between her teammates and coaches.

“It’s a lot more fun to swim here,” Johansson said. “You work more as a team and everyone cheers each other on all the time in practice and during meets. I like that part a lot. it really makes things a lot easier.”

On her third year swimming at WSU, Johansson has often seen her team fall short many times. But through all of the negativity, she is able to stand tall and look at the positives in her career.

Johansson said she became tougher during her freshman year when she spent time becoming tougher due to the more difficult training regimens.

In the same year, she marched straight into the record books after posting a 55.58 time in the 100-meter butterfly at the Pac-10 Championships, which ranks sixth all time in WSU history.

During her sophomore season, gaining confidence was the main focus. It began to show as she finished first in the 100-meter butterfly on multiple occasions and posted a time of 54.55 in the Pac-12 Championships, passing her old mark and moving up to fourth on the all-time WSU list.

As for this year, Johansson said she seen dramatic improvement in her performance and she only hopes to get stronger and more confident as the season goes on.

The entire Cougar swimming program is getting stronger too, thanks to heavy recruiting and hard work.

“...I think the program will get a lot better and continue to move forward at a fast pace,"Johansson said.

As for her future, Johansson said she does plan to continue swimming after she leaves WSU, because she truly believes she has the potential to be an Olympic athlete and she wants to take her career as far as possible.

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