Belgrade 2024: Helena Rosendahl Bach – loving medals & learning from Pernille Blume

Published On: June 15, 2024

Helena Rosendahl Bach won silver at Roma 2022 – European Aquatics

By Nick Hope
Aquatics Correspondent

It was the early hours of 14 August 2016 when Helena Rosendahl Bach – and many of her neighbours – realised just how much Danish sporting success meant to the swimmer.

No nightmare had woken the then 16-year-old from her sleep, instead Helena – and her sister Isabella – had fought off any thoughts of fatigue to watch the Rio Olympic Games on television.

Their endeavours were rewarded as Pernille Blume claimed a surprise 50m freestyle gold and became Denmark’s first Olympic champion in the sport since 1948.

“We were SCREAMING!” recalls Rosendahl Bach with a smile.

“I was in shock, it was just amazing and thinking about it now, I just get goosebumps.

“It made me realise how much I wanted to be part of it and I love celebrating other people’s successes.”

Eight years on she has now experienced several moments of personal success, following up a maiden major medal – silver at the 2022 European Championships – with another second place, this time at the World Championships, earlier this year.

The 200m butterfly specialist will head into Belgrade 2024 keen to land a maiden European title.

Photo: World Aquatics / Morgan Hancock

Rosendahl Bach was encouraged to swim from an early age; she was part of a club from the age of six and began racing around nine-years-old.

“I discovered I was really good,” she says while laughing. “I liked to race people my own age and find out if I was the fastest and I just loved racing.

“I found out that I am a very competitive person and when I started racing I loved that in swimming you could win a lot of medals in one weekend and I loved taking golds home.”

The swimmer recalls watching London 2012 unfold on television too and absorbing all of the moments featuring her “big idol” Michael Phelps, who would add four Olympic titles to the eight he historically secured four years earlier.

She also had her eyes trained on Denmark’s leading swimmer of the era, Lotte Friis, who was a distance specialist and winner of the 800m bronze at Beijing 2008.

Credit to: European Aquatics

Although the six-time World championship medallist did not attain a place on the podium at London 2012 Rosendahl Bach, like many young swimmers in Denmark at the time, was “obsessed” with her career and “really nice” personality.

“I haven’t spoken to her much, but she was working on Tokyo (2020 Olympic Games) and interviewed me, so I was a bit star-struck,” she tells European Aquatics.

“I’m actually working with Pernille Blume though because she’s a mentor for the (Danish) team and it’s really nice to have her around.

“She has so much good advice about what to do when I’m getting nervous and I’ve asked her about lots of things, so it’s really great to work with her.”

Image: @helena_rosendahl_bach

Rosendahl Bach swam a somewhat surprise double at Tokyo 2020, competing in both the 200m butterfly and the 1500m freestyle, but dropped the latter following those Games.

She has been rewarded with second-place finishes, in the former, at European long and short course championships as well as at the Doha 2024 Worlds.

“I chose to stop the 1500m after Tokyo and now it’s been amazing because I love getting medals and it feels like a great reward for all of those hours in the pool,” says the swimmer.

“In Tokyo I was quite nervous for my first Olympics, but there was no-one there and I can’t wait for this one (Paris 2024) to have the experience with my family watching my 200m fly.”

Image: @helena_rosendahl_bach

Rosendahl Bach will use the European Aquatics Championships Belgrade 2024 as a stepping stone towards the Paris 2024 Olympic Games and is in confident mood ahead of her swims in Serbia.

“I feel I’m in good shape as I’ve had a lot of great races during the last few months and good practices,” she tells European Aquatics.

“I’m getting excited, I can feel it in my stomach so I hope I can do great races.”

And what about following her heroes Friis and Blume and securing an Olympic medal herself?

“Of course, I know the Olympics will be difficult and yes it would be nice to win the gold and yes I dream about that, but for me I can only control myself, not what other people do in other lanes,” she says.

“I’m going to try and be as good as I can be at both the Europeans and the Olympics and we will see what the results will be, but I’m hoping for some fast times and improve in Paris.”

Image: World Aquatics / Jo Kleindl