Hjördis Töpel was one of Sweden’s top swimmers and divers during the 1920s.
Hjördis Töpel was born in Gothenburg in 1904. She was the daughter of Viktor Emanuel and Matilda Josefina Töpel. Her father was a typographer and a book printer. Hjördis Töpel had six brothers and two sisters.
Hjördis Töpel was a member of the Gothenburg SK Najaden club during her sporting career. The club was founded in 1917. Ahead of the Antwerp Olympic Games in 1920 qualifying competitions were held in Stockholm to select the Swedish Olympic team. These competitions also served as Swedish Championships. The SK Najaden club sent several of their female members to compete, and some of them were successful enough to be selected for the team that was sent to Belgium. Hjördis Töpel, however, had to make do with being a reservist who had to wait at home.
The first so-called regular women’s Olympiad was held in 1922, beginning with swimming events which were held in Monte Carlo. Svenska Simförbundet sent five competitors – including Hjördis Töpel. Hjördis Töpel came second to Eva Olliwier in the regular dive event. Hjördis Töpel was also part of the Swedish team which won the freestyle relay event.
Hjördis Töpel was included in the Swedish team sent to Paris for the 1924 Olympics. Her performance in the regular dive event had her almost level with the event favourite, an American. In the end Hjördis Töpel was awarded the bronze medal. Of the six nations represented in the freestyle 4x100 metre relay it was the Swedish team which brought home the bronze medal. This team included, not just Hjördis Töpel, but also Aina Berg from Gothenburg, Wivan Pettersson from Eskilstuna Simsällskap (swimming society) as well as Gulli Ewerlund from Malmö Simsällskap. Hjördis Töpel and her younger sister Ingegärd, also a member of SK Najaden, were both competitors in the regular dive event at the 1928 Amsterdam Olympic Games. Unfortunately they were both knocked out in the first heat which they had both been placed in.
Hjördis Töpel won many national swimming events. She was Swedish champion in three branches, revealing the breadth of her swimming ability. In 1923, 1924 and 1930 she won the 100 metre event, in 1923 she also won the 200 metre breaststroke event. She also won the lifeguard event in both 1923 and 1924. At the 1923 Nordic championships Hjördis Töpel won the 100 metre freestyle, the 200 metre breaststroke, and the high dive. In 1925 she won the Nordic championship high dive event. Hjördis Töpel set the Swedish record for the 100 metre freestyle in 1923, for the 400 metre freestyle in 1930, and for the 200 metre breaststroke in 1923.
Hjördis Töpel competed in swimming events at the 1923 Swedish Games in Gothenburg, winning both the 100 metre and the 300 metre freestyle competitions. Further, it was thanks to Hjördis Töpel’s strong effort in the last section of the 4x100 metre team race that led to Sweden’s victory. In 1924 Hjördis Töpel was the outright winner of the first ever so-called Älvsborgsimningen, which involved a 2,000 metre swim and was completed by 12 female swimmers. Hjördis Töpel completed the course in 44:30.50 minutes. She won the regular dive event in the regional championship as late as 1935. In 1936 Hjördis Töpel was a member of the SK Najaden winning team in the 4x100 metre event.
Once Hjördis Töpel had finished competing she then became an office worker. She died in Gothenburg in 1987. She is buried at the Västra cemetery in the same city.