Her name is Anna-Johanna Nilsson, but only a few people call her that because it takes too long to say it (according to very credible sources). During this Championship, you can call her A-J. She is 22-years old currently studying Business & Economics at Stockholm School of Economics and being a Sweden national team karateka. She’s been doing karate since 2005.
“The reason for starting was a recommendation from friends in Gothenburg (where I lived until I was fifteen). My parents were determined to find a sport for both me and my two sisters, it just happened to be Karate! It was fate”, she shared.
A-J’s favourite technique is gyaku-tsuki. For her, it’s one of the simplest techniques but also one of the hardest because it’s commonly used in fights, therefore one of the most foreseeable. Besides the movements, she also enjoys the karate community, and especially the experiences she gets to share with her dad, who is very involved in her career.
“I believe Karate has formed me into the person I am today, as the basics, discipline and respect, are two of my core values. I’m quite certain, without Karate, I probably wouldn’t have been accepted into my University.”
Winning a bronze medal at the U21 Championships in 2017 is her dearest memory: “YES, I remember that feeling. It was indescribable, there were so many emotions simultaneously. It is my biggest accomplishment and the second is my bronze at Serie A Salzburg 2018. Being in a similar situation of winning another big competition medal is my motive.”
At the last European Championships in Spain Anna-Johanna was seventh so the motivation is in place for #karateporec2021: “The obvious goal for #karateporec2021 is winning my category -61kg category. I really believe that I have the potential to stand at the top of the podium, just hoping my nerves won’t get in my way! Having the right mindset is so important in this sport because a single mistake or hesitation can change the outcome of any match. #Mindsetiskey”
And who is the biggest threat in her opinion? “I believe the only thing stopping me from winning is not having the right mindset required to win, and the only person that can influence that is me. Then, I would say I’m my biggest threat, cliché right?!”
Among other goals, A-J is aiming for the biggest one – Olympic and World titles. What’s motivating her to get there?
“The thing that motivates me is feeling proud, as I’m rarely proud… Whatever I challenge myself to do, I feel a need to do it 100% and work until I achieve my goal. Looking ahead, maybe ten or twenty years from now, it would be quite nice to feel grateful for everything that Karate has brought into my life, as well as being able to say “Damn, I was gooood”, she shared. Her family, especially her dad, is her biggest support and that helps a lot.
Living in Sweden, she could prepare normally all this time, even though there weren’t any competitions: “The strategy for Covid-19 in Sweden has been quite different, compared to other European countries. So, due to being able to train normally with very few restrictions, not much has changed for me. Assuming, like for many others, I had a hard time keeping my motivation up. So after the Europeans were cancelled, I re-planned to find more joy in training. I started to invest more time in yoga, other group sports (padel & badminton) as well as taking the time to learn more advanced techniques. Now, more than ever, I’m motivated and so excited for my next match!”
Alongside different physical preparations, she changed her pre-match rituals: “I’m working on a more consistent ritual, at the moment I am doing more ordinary stuff like treating myself the day before with things that makes me calm, and not too focused on the competition. Things like studying, massage, and eating pasta (a lot).”
This super positive karateka doesn’t have any regrets in her career except when she is not sticking to her game plan. On the other hand, there is one regret and that is – not stretching enough when she was younger: “It’s so hard going down into splits now”.
We were happy when she told us her impression of Croatia: “The youth camps in Croatia are the best! I have so many great memories from all the camps I participated in, it’s such an amazing experience and it shows the true community among karatekas. Croatia is full of culture, wonderful people and beautiful places – a country I would travel to, not only for competitions but also for vacation!”