Eight young Scandinavians breaking the mould in the world of sports
By Trine Jensen-Martin
From winter sports to racket sports and water sports, a current wave of young and talented sports stars from Scandinavia are making their mark everywhere. Here we look at eight promising young athletes lighting up the pitch, defying speed, swerving obstacles on the slope, or making a splash in the pool.
Ebba Årsjö (SE) Paralympic Alpine Skiing
Årsjö is one of Sweden’s most thrilling, gifted, young para-athletes. Born in 2001 and diagnosed with the rare Klippel-Trénaunay syndrome, which has caused muscle reduction in her right leg, she started downhill skiing at the age of six. Today, at 22, she has a long list of impressive results to her name, including two gold medals at the World Championship in 2021, two golds and a bronze at the Winter Paralympics in 2022, and four golds at the 2023 World Championship.
Repeatedly hailed as an inspiration to her generation and to the paralympic community, she has received several prestigious awards in honour of her achievements and in recognition of her honesty and courage in talking openly about her disability. As the first Swedish Para athlete ever, she was awarded the Royal Family’s Victoria Prize, and at the Parasport Gala in May 2023, she won the esteemed Årets Specialpris for her outstanding achievements in sports and for her role in giving para sports a real platform in Sweden. It seems that Ebba has only just begun, yet she has already achieved so much both on and off-piste.
Holger Rune (DEN) Tennis
Rune was the youngest ever Danish male singles champion at 15, and before turning professional at 16 he won both the European U14s and Junior World Championships. In 2022 aged 19, he made his global debut reaching the quarter-finals at the French Open. That same year, he won the prestigious Rolex Paris Masters, beating world number one, tennis icon Novak Djokovic. Rune is now ranked fourth in the world. His energetic style on the court is earning him a reputation as an exciting and fast-paced player, with an uncanny ability to read both the game and his opponents. Rune is known for his trademark fist-pumps on the courts and is often described as the shining light of Danish tennis.
Jakob Ingebrigtsen (N) Athletics/Middle- and Long-distance running
A 23-year-old prolific record breaker, who aged 16 became the youngest man in history to run a mile in under four minutes, Ingebrigtsen has recently beaten the two-mile world record by more than four seconds. He is a four-time European champion and holds several European and world records – in 2022 and 2023 he became the 5000-meters world champion. He has previously won four gold medals in the European Cross-Country Championship and still holds the U20s European 3000 m Steeplechase record. In 2022, he set the Indoor World record in 1300 meters. This past year, has seen him continue his whirlwind of breaking records, beating personal bests and winning gold medals. Indeed, this young runner seems unstoppable!
Julie Mathiesen Scaglione (DEN) Handball
19-year-old Julie is a highly regarded professional playmaker for the premier league team Herning/Ikast. She played with the Danish national women’s team during the 2021 World Cup qualifiers and made her proper debut with them the following year. In 2022, her team won silver in the U20s World Championship, a tournament that saw her awarded best left-back and tournament top-scorer, with an impressive 62 goals. Scaglione has grown up with handball, with both parents playing at a high level – her mother for the national team. This has no doubt been an inspiration and a source of support, and she has used her advantageous background most impressively in carving out her own niche. Today, she is considered one of the most talented young female handball players in Europe.
Marcus Holmgren Pedersen (NO) Football
Originally from Hammerfest, 23-year-old Pedersen started his career in 2018, playing for Tromsø. Quickly his career rocketed, and later that same year, he made his league debut and went on to play in Norway’s top division, becoming the first football player from Hammerfest to do so. Having gone on to play for the professional league team Monde in Norway and the Dutch team Feyenoord in Rotterdam, Pedersen is currently on loan to Italian club Sassuolo. In 2021 he made his debut with Norway’s national team, and looks set to become a promising, permanent member of the squad. In the world of football, many have been astonished by the speed with which this young player’s career has accelerated, but Pedersen himself has kept a cool head. Now, the world of football eagerly awaits the next move of the Norwegian comet from Hammerfest.
Emma Johansson (SE) Basketball
In 2022 Johansson made the move stateside to play for American league team University of South Florida Bulls. Originally from Jönsköping, 20-year-old Johansson has played for the Swedish National Youth team since 2019, in both U16s and U20s European Championships. Her strong performance as a Forward/Centre secured her a place on the Swedish National Team, where she took part in the 2021 and 2023 FIBA Women’s Eurobasket. In August this year, Emma was nominated as one of the top performers in this year’s tournament in Vilnius, and with an extended contract with her club team in America, her career continues its upward trajectory.
Nicholas Castella (DEN) Swimming
Aged 14 Castella became the fastest swimmer at his age in the world, with a time only eclipsed by now-retired Australian swimming phenomenon Ian Thorpe. Now 16, his ambition is to compete in the 2024 Olympics and to bring home medals at the 2028 and 2032 Olympics. Ambitious and talented, Castella competes with professional adult swimmers, despite technically belonging to the junior league. In 2022 he won gold at the Junior Olympics in 100 meters freestyle and bronze in 200 m freestyle. At this year’s European Junior Championship, he was on the 4 x 100 meters medley relay team, which achieved an outstanding record time for Denmark, and Castella is predicted to become one of Denmark’s all-time best swimmers.
Wilma Murto (FI) Athlete
Born in Kuusjoki, this 25-year-old trail-blazing female Finnish athlete competes in the track-and-field event pole vaulting, also known as pole jumping. She made her international debut at the 2014 Junior World Championship in athletics at the age of 16 and has continued to break both Finnish and international records and to improve personal bests ever since. Murto won her first international senior competition, when she took home gold in the European Athletics Championship in 2022, setting a new Finnish record at the same time; the same year, she came sixth in the World Championship. This year, she became the first Finnish woman in history to win gold at the European Indoor Championship. Clearing a staggering 4.80 meters, she beat her own personal best and broke the Finnish record in the process. Indeed, Murto’s career continues to soar as she keeps breaking records and, literally, raising the bar in her field.
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