Tokyo Calympian: Björn Seeliger, Swimming, Sweden

The rising Cal sophomore booked his spot for Tokyo merely a week after losing his father to cancer

Continuing with this week’s pattern of featuring a current Cal swimming student-athlete in the morning, Björn Seeliger will be a first-time Olympian in Tokyo representing Sweeden.

Björn Seeliger

Sport: Swimming

Event: Men’s 50m Freestyle

Nation: Sweden

Hometown: Södertälje, Sweden (born in Celle, Germany)

Olympic Appearance: 1st

Age: 21 (January 11, 2000)

Cal connection: Cal Rising Sophomore

Cal accomplishments: Even as a freshman, Seeliger was already one of the top sprinters for Cal Men’s Swimming. He is a part of two NCAA national championship-winning relays: 4x50y Free Relay and 4x100y Free Relay. Björn finished 2nd behind teammate Ryan Hoffer for the NCAA 50y Free title and placed 4th in 100y Free.

Tragically, Björn’s father passed away from a year-long battle with cancer just a mere 8 days before Björn earned his Olympic berth. After a last-minute decision to go back to Rome, where he had been training before the sudden trip back to Sweden, to compete in the last chance meet (he was racing more against the Olympic standard than anyone in particular), Seeliger was able to achieve his dream of becoming an Olympian. He dedicated that swim to his father. You can read more from his Instagram post below.

8 days ago, my dad passed away unexpectedly after fighting cancer for over a year. I traveled home from camp in Rome to spend the hardest week of my life around family in Sweden. My dad is one of my biggest supporters in my life so 2 days ago, I decided to fly back out to Rome to compete at my last chance meet. I had not trained for a week but decided to swim anyway, for something greater than myself.

Yesterday, in my last race at my last chance meet, I swam a 21.71 and made the Olympic team.

This one was for you dad ❤️

The Olympic standard was 22.01 for 50m Free. In the 50m Free event, Seeliger finished 6th with a time of 22.06, but he was able to get a split of 21.71 in the 100m Free to earn a spot on the Swedish Olympic team.

Seeliger talked to SwimSwam about his Olympic qualification.

Seeliger chatted with SwimSwam about his recent Olympic qualification and said that it “was very very emotional and [he] was very surprised with [his] swim.” Seeliger discussed the fact that his father died from cancer only 8 days before the race and that he had been out of the pool for a whole week before traveling to Settecolli. Seeliger made the decision to travel back to Rome “not to beat a time but swim for [his father].”

Seeliger also said that “things are moving very quickly and we are leaving on Monday already for Tokyo so there is not a lot of time to stop and breath. I’m very excited to race for him at the games and have received tremendous support from friends, family and the Cal Bear family.”

That is rather sad that his father could not see him achieve his Olympic dream. Of course, it is also very impressive that Seeliger was able to channel his emotions into a personal best swim in the clutch.

Prior to coming to Cal, Seeliger already owned the Swedish junior national record. He is also the latest of a long line of Swimming Swedish “Calympian” in Cal Men’s Swimming history. For this Olympic Games, he will be joined by incoming freshman Robin Hanson.

According to his Cal bio, Björn has an uncle Marcus who was a postdoc in the Cal Chemistry department, in the lab of John Kuriyan. I do not believe Björn has declared a major yet at Cal.

With an imposing height of 6’8”, Björn Seeliger and teammate Reece Whitley can probably take on anyone in either two-on-two basketball or beach volleyball.

While I do not expect Seeliger to contend for a medal in Tokyo, the Olympics should be a great experience for the young sprinter. Assuming that he can stay healthy, I do expect Seeliger to be even stronger and faster by the next Olympic Games, especially with all the experience, such as US Calympian legend Nathan Adrian, to draw from when training at Cal. He should be able to add to his NCAA National Championship totals, both with relay titles and maybe a few individual titles, between now and 2024 as well.

Best of luck to Björn in Tokyo!

Olympic Schedule

Swimming events will take place between July 24 and August 1st from the Tokyo Aquatics Centre.

Fri July 30

Men’s 50m Free - Heats

Sat July 31

Men’s 50m Free - Semifinals

Sun Aug 1

Men’s 50m Free -Final