Before she stepped on the mat at the Rio Olympics, Sofia Mattsson was in two minds. She was doubtful if she would be able to wrestle at all. A month before the Games, she picked up a leg injury which made her chances to compete in Olympics minimal. But the Sweden wrestler wanted to be at the biggest stage and decided to go ahead. Had she decided pull out of the Olympics, she may not have got her biggest medal in her life so far – the Olympic bronze.
The 26-year-old managed to beat her Nigerian opponent Odunayo Adekuoroye in the first bout and that changed her mindset. She believed that she can ignore the injury and win a medal here. She won another bout but her medal hopes took a blow when she lost her semi-final bout against Helen Maroulis of USA. But she didn’t lose heart. She went on a winning spree in the repechage and eventually won the medal that she had never dreamt of.
“Undoubtedly that was my biggest win. It doesn’t seem so when you win it but when you let it sink in and reach back home you realise how big it is. The whole country knows you,” said Sofia.
Being known by most in Sweden is something Sofia never thought of. But she decided it very early in her life that she will wrestle.
“I began wrestling at a young age of six. We are three sisters and all of us used to go in the same school. We picked up wrestling there. It was just for fun but after some time we became serious and continued,” she said.
Born in Gallivare village, Sofia always thought of making a big name for herself in the sport. And that was began in 2001.
She won her first national title in the cadet category. She won it five more times. And during that time, she made it clear what she wants from her career.
“One day I just went up to my mother and told her that I want to be a world champion. At that time, she just made me comfortable by saying yes, you will get there,” said Sofia.
But her mother didn’t realise that Sofia will reach her goal so quickly. In 2009, she became the world champion in the 51kg category. In the next seven years, she won three silver and one bronze medal at the world championships as well.
“It all happened so quickly and it’s so great to be world champion. Now every time I go on the mat, I just think of wrestling and not what I have to win because I have those big medals,” she said. But what is her biggest win so far in her career? “Of course the Olympic bronze medal,” she says.
Now she has resumed her training to prepare for upcoming competitions, including the Pro Wrestling League.
“I wanted to be here last year as well but because it was an Olympic year, our federation didn’t want to take a chance of any injury so I could come. This time I am hoping to get picked in the auction and play in the league,” she said.
While she waits for the auction, which will be conducted mid-Novmeber, Sofia has already made plans about her trip in India.
“The moment I landed here, I saw people everywhere. In Sweden we don’t have so many people. But I realised that it is not a problem in India. They are friendly and have a different way of doing things. They are like free people. I like their freedom,” she said.
As a wrestler, Sofia has travelled around the world but finds peace only in her village. It there she can enjoy the nature to relax.
“Sometimes doing the same sport becomes very difficult. So I like going back to my village. I like going to the forest. There are kids at home and I like being with them as they don’t know that you are world champ or Olympic medallist. They just enjoy with you,” she says.
In a week’s time, Sofia will turn 27 and couple of days later, she may know if she is going to be part of the league or not. “You professional league for male wrestlers and this is for both male and female. Top players come here and wrestle and I want to be part of it. I hope I return to the country in December,” she said.