The True Heroes of ÖTILLÖ: Meet Olof Karlsson

Dec 15, 2017

Cecilie Lie

“Olof drove 7 hours to come and talk to me. I suggested Skyping or a phone call but he insisted, he wanted to see me in person. So, I offered him lunch and a chat. He then got in his car and drove back home.”
Race Director, Michael Lemmel

By Michael Lemmel

In 2014, Olof Karlsson decided that he wanted to change his life. At the age of 40, he weighed over 160 kg (350 pounds) and while he was a brilliant engineer in the automotive industry, he’d never done any sports what so ever.

Olof had gastric bypass surgery to help him recover from obesity. He then started looking online for something to motivate him to start fitness training and found a video of ÖTILLÖ. He decided that that is what he wanted to do.

He asked a police officer friend to join him, but he declined saying ÖTILLÖ was too tough. Undeterred, Olof then called this friend’s brother, Simon: “Your brother just told me ÖTILLÖ is too tough. Are you in?” and was met with an enthusiastic “Yes!”

In 2014-2015, Olof trained with Jonas Colting who managed to coerce Anette Lindström and Olof to come do Borås Swimrun. They did and they finished.

Also in 2015, Simon and Olof entered ÖTILLÖ Utö as their first ever Swimrun. They didn’t make the first cut-off but the quest for that natural high they discovered continued. That same year Olof participated in 8 full distance and 4 Sprint swimruns, finishing the season with Koster Swimrun. He DNFed only twice, at Utö and Xterra Norway.

How remarkable to be able to open up a door for someone and to give that push.

For Olof, 2016 was a rubbish season. He went all-in for Xterra races as well, fell on the bike and injured his arm. He and Simon participated at Utö 2016 anyway – they didn’t finish, however they managed to get further along in the course – but withdrew from all races after that. Olof just got back into training mid-2017 with a new vision and is now back on track.

So back to the reason Olof drove 14 hours straight to talk to me.

We started our lunch and after 15 minutes Olof said, “Okay, now as to why I’m here … What do I need to do to get into the ÖTILLÖ Swimrun World Championship? I am willing to do every race there is but I really want to be part of ÖTILLÖ 2019.”

I look at him, smile and shake my head. “You should have called, we have the 7/24 Concept, it is perfect for you! It’s even on the website.”

With the 7/24 Concept, Olof and his teammate David Thylén can do 5 World Series races and 2 ÖTILLÖ Merit races over a 24-month period and have a guaranteed spot in ÖTILLÖ 2019.

I see that Olof and David – aka Team Kudos – have signed up for ÖTILLÖ Hvar 2018. How remarkable to be able to open up a door for someone and to give that push.

Olof is a true hero, challenging everything there is in society to go from obesity to finishing the ÖTILLÖ Swimrun World Championship, which he will, for sure.

I saw the fire in his eyes.

Article first published in Swimrun Life Magazine Issue #5 (December 2017)

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