Few people in industry are aware that SSG’s Communications Officer Stefan Tärnhuvud for more than a decade has been one of Sweden’s top hundred metre sprinters, and he has long been a pillar of the Swedish national athletics team. Stefan is proud to be able to represent SSG, and he is also very proud of his athletics career, which provided him with a wealth of experiences for life and for his work for SSG. He takes most pride in the fact that he never gave up when things were at their toughest after all his injuries two years ago.

There are a lot of positive things to say about SSG’s Communications Officer for the last eight years, Stefan Tärnhuvud. One such positive observation is that he is what you might refer to as a ‘late bloomer’. Although he has been at the top of Swedish athletics for more than a decade, he came late to his career as a sprinter.

“I’d always been fast, but it wasn’t until I was 16, when I competed in and won the Sundsvall Championships, that both I and the Sundsvalls Friidrott athletics club discovered my talent. My winning time was one of the 25 best in the country for 16-year-olds, and that was without having done any training.”

The victory opened up a whole new world for Stefan.

“It all went really well in the very first year. I won silver in the Swedish Youth Championships and the Swedish Schools Championships. When I was 20 I made my début in the senior national team, and at 21 in my first senior championships, the European Championships.” In 2008, Stefan won his first gold medal at the Swedish Championships, and in the same year he also won the Finland-Sweden Athletics International event for the first time.

Injuries created a thirst for revenge

In 2014, it all ground to a halt because of injuries. He was operated on for hip impingement (FAI), and during a training session in early 2015 he was unlucky enough to tear a tendon of one of his hamstring muscles at the age of 30. This meant another long period of rehabilitation. It would be August 2016 before he was back competing on the track.

“I’m now back at the level I reached at my very best, and I’m now aiming to beat by personal best of 10.35 and win another Swedish Championship medal before I hang up my running shoes. This summer I managed 10.54, which is the seventh best time in Sweden this year. It’s important to test your abilities and limits. I don’t want to be standing there in ten years, wondering how good I could have been without having really put it to the test.”

Mentor for national team mates

With his age and experience, Stefan has become something of a mentor and a father figure in the athletics team. He is also a member of the Swedish Athletics Association’s council of active members, representing sprinting.

“I have far more experience than many of my other colleagues, and I’m trying to get involved in pushing through various improvements. It’s an informal leadership role, one I feel obliged to take on.”

Parallel career at SSG

In parallel with his athletics career, Stefan has also taken a Bachelor’s degree in Media and Communication Studies at the Mid Sweden University in Sundsvall, and since 2010 he has been working just over half time as Communications Officer at SSG.

“My sporting success was linked to the fact that I was also offered good conditions to practise my sport. SSG has given me tremendous support, as the company has allowed me to train to the level required to perform at the top. I also believe that it’s been a smart investment for SSG, which has gained a very loyal and highly focused employee. Sport has trained me to be performance-based in my work and always to deliver high quality.”        

A wealth of experiences of teamwork

Athletics is not just about individual performances. In a national team context, they work actively in teams – just like in the workplace. This is particularly evident at the European Team Championships and the Finland-Sweden Athletics International, where personal performance is only part of the bigger picture. This is especially noticeable in the Swedish 4 x 100 metre relay team, where Stefan has long been an experienced engine.

“The relay is all about working together as a team, trusting each other and supporting each other. It’s about cooperation and good communication, being able to correct each other and to understand the common purpose. In the relay, it’s also about the different competences and strengths, in which all four legs require different skills. It’s not always the fastest 100 metre runners you need in a relay team. The one who runs the first leg has to be good out of the blocks and taking the curve, the one running the second leg has to run alone and a little further, the one running the third leg has to be good on the curve and the one running the fourth leg must be able to run under pressure.”

“Don’t look for quick gains”

Stefan is proud to be able to represent SSG, and he is also very proud of his athletics career. He takes most pride in the fact that he never gave up when things were at their toughest after his injuries.

“I showed myself and others that you must never give up if there’s something you really want. It would have been natural to finish there and then, but I felt that I wasn’t finished with athletics. I still felt motivated to put in all the work required. I set my sights on running fast again and I want to see how fast I can run after my hip operation.”

But Stefan has also learnt from athletics that good things hardly ever happen of their own accord.

“If you want something, it takes meticulous planning and work, and it must be allowed to take the time it takes. Nothing happens overnight, you have to be prepared to work for a long time to achieve results. With passion, energy and desire you can achieve major changes. That’s true both in sport and at the workplace.”

“There’s more to life than money”

Nor does Stefan regret making the wrong choice of sporting career. There are not many athletes who have been able to amass large sums of money during and after their career.

“There are other gains and assets in this life. Such as the memory of standing in a packed Scandinavium athletics arena in Gothenburg and being introduced as ‘The Sundsvall Flash’ in front of 15,000 cheering and clapping spectators during the 2013 European Championships. Such moments create pride and an unforgettable memory for life. My athletics career has also made me mentally strong. I’ve had to learn to perform in high-pressure situations and how to best summon up the drive you need to achieve expected results and work towards a goal. All of this means much more to me than money in the bank.”

Stefan Tärnhuvud in brief

  • Aged 33
  • Club: Sundsvalls Friidrottsförening
  • Five Swedish Championship gold medals at 60 m and 100 m.
  • Two victories in the Finland-Sweden Athletics International
  • 10th in the 60 m at the 2013 European Indoor Championships, 15th in the 100 m at the 2012 European Championships
  • Personal website, click here.

Photo: Swedish Athletics Association/Magnus Malmsborg