Stensils has new dream after fulfilling Olympic ambitions early

Sweden’s Linnea Stensils always dreamed of going to an Olympics, but in those dreams it was always Tokyo in 2020 where she pictured herself churning through the water.

Maybe those dreams made her much more relaxed last year. Whatever the reason, she got her Olympic dream, four years earlier than planned, in Rio.

Now she’s got a taste for it, she can’t wait for 2020.

“I’ve always thought about Tokyo, even before Rio,” Stensils said on Friday.

“Going to Rio was more like a bonus for me, and I was very happy to make it, but Tokyo is definitely something I think about a lot.”

As part of the “going-to-Tokyo” campaign 23-year-old Stensils has decided to broaden her portfolio. She’s proven herself as a more than capable 200 metre paddler, finishing seventh in Rio, and now she’s adding the 500.

In Belgrade on Friday Stensils raced through her heat and semi-final to qualify for Saturday’s K1 500 final at the third ICF World Cup. She can feel she’s getting faster every time she gets on the water.

“I think I have a lot to improve in the 500,” she said.

“The last World Cup was the first time I have raced it internationally, so I want to get the 500 race.

“I think it’s fun that there are a lot of fast girls, and I want to be one.”

But it’s not that easy, as Stensils herself is quick to point out. In Szeged last week she found the program challenging. But instead of backing away, she signed herself up for the same this weekend.

And then added another event.

“It was hard last weekend to do both races, lots of hard semis and heats, and this week I’ve the K2 500 as well,” she said.

“It will be hard, but I think it is good for me to get that international racing.

“I hope I will do both K1 races, and we’ll see how the K2 goes. I’ve been working a lot on the 500 this winter, and I’ve really improved a lot. I think it will be fun to do both.”

Stensils and the Swedish canoe program has undergone several changes post-Rio.  It’s given the program a freshness which giving the athletes motivation, quite often a challenge in a post-Olympics year.

“I have a new coach, the whole national coach, everything is basically new,” Stensils said.

“It’s been hard training but not too hard. I’ve been motivated the whole time.

“I mean I want to improve, so I put a lot of pressure on myself. If I see something I can do better, I want to try to make it better.”

The success of the changes won’t be judged on results for the current squad alone. Sweden has other challenges it is dealing with.

“Unfortunately there are not so many new athletes in Swedish canoeing,” Stensils said.

“I think we are struggling a bit to get the young girls and the young boys up, but with the new team I think we will get more.

“We are putting some more money in and getting younger people to live more healthy lives.”

The ICF Canoe Sprint World Cup 3 continues in Belgrade on Saturday.

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