Ingrid Almqvist was Sweden’s most successful female javelin thrower ever.
Ingrid ‘Pyret’ Almqvist stated that she was not entirely sure how her sporting career began in Redbergslid IK’s (RIK) (Redbergslid sports club) centenary history. She had tried various sports at school, including as diverse sports as slingball and the standing long jump. She said it may have been a male schoolfriend who suggested that she get in touch with RIK. In 1944 she began to play handball at RIK in their B-team and after a year she was promoted into the A-team. Her trainer was the well-known RIK personality Lennart Necander. He came up with her nickname ‘Pyret’ so that she would easily be distinguished from her markedly taller team-mate Ingrid Samuelsson. Although Ingrid Almqvist’s father, Filip ‘Slänta’ Almqvist, had been a javelin thrower for several clubs he had never intentionally pushed his daughter to try out in the same sport. It was Lennart Necander who really tested Ingrid’s ability for the javelin. The experiment revealed her talent for the sport and she quickly became a member of RIK’s female athletics team.
Ingrid Almqvist took to javelin throwing with great enthusiasm and quickly found success. After a year’s training she made her debut at the Swedish championships in 1946, where she placed second. Up until 1964 she won a medal at every Swedish championship competition, apart from 1959 when she had broken her foot. 15 of her 18 javelin medals were gold medals. She won the regional championships about a dozen times, seemingly each time she competed. During her career Ingrid Almqvist improved on the Swedish record a total of 16 times. She threw a distance of 39.24 metres for the first time in 1947, and her last attempt – in 1964 – displayed the massive improvement she’d made when she threw a distance of 52.32 metres. This remained the Swedish record for ten years. Ingrid Almqvist won gold for athletics in the 1961 Nordic championships with a distance of 50.85 metres. She did not compete in the Nordics in either 1963 or 1965.
During her twenty year spell as an elite athlete Ingrid Almqvist was selected to represent Sweden for a total of 33 national competitions. She made her debut in national colours in 1947 and represented the country in every competition until 1964 apart from three occasions when she injury prevented her from doing so. Her rivals usually came from Finland or Denmark. She won international javelin competitions 15 times in total. These international fixtures involved travelling to various cities outside the North, including Prague, Budapest, Zagreb, Zürich, and Leipzig. Ingrid Almqvist threw her last Swedish record at her last international competition, held in Helsinki in September 1964.
Ingrid Almqvist left RIK in 1960. She then joined the Gothenburg Kvinnliga Idrottsklubb (women’s sports club), GKIK. The reason she gave for switching clubs was that she felt isolated as an athletics sportswoman at RIK. Several of her friends from the national team were members of GKIK, including the shot-putter Eivor Olsson Lagman who had previously been a member of RIK. Ingrid Almqvist and Eivor Olsson Lagman had become best friends when they trained together and made their debut for the national team at the same time. For many years they largely trained together every day each summer. They were mainly responsible for their own training but when international fixtures became regular they got a certain amount of assistance from the national trainer Martin Jansson. Ingrid Almqvist was active as a member of GKIK for five years. She decided to quit after the 1964 season, at the age of 37, because ‘she no longer had the right inspiration’, and she felt that she ‘had done enough’ as quoted from a retrospective interview.
Ingrid Almqvist competed in several international championships, namely three Olympic games and three European championships. Her first experience at this level was the London Olympics in 1948. Following the distances she had managed to throw at home it was expected that she would be ‘favourably placed’, according to Olympiaboken. ‘However, when she entered Wembley stadium she never found her rhythm’, according to the book, and she never made the final after only throwing a distance of about 40 metres. Two years later, at the European championships in Brussels, both Ingrid Almqvist and Eivor Olsson Lagman competed in the javelin throw with moderate results – they threw distance of 38.21 and 34.85 metres and were placed eighth and thirteenth respectively.
There was no female javelin thrower representing Sweden at the 1952 Helsinki Olympic games. Ingrid Almqvist was injured and could not compete. When it was time for the European championships in Bern in 1954 she was back on form. Her performance during that season was cause for a certain optimism, but it eventually proved itself misplaced. She earned tenth place with a throw of 41.95 metres. In 1956 Ingrid Almqvist was a part of the Swedish group which made the long-distance journey to Melbourne during the months of November to December. Once again she was in good form and had managed throws of about 50 metres distance in events leading up to the games, including setting a new Swedish record of 51.60 metres. The picture-book Olympia reported that Ingrid Almqvist put on a strong performance in Melbourne, with her longest throw at 49.74 metres temporarily putting her in second place. Her final position was in fifth place, just half a metre short of the bronze medal.
1958 was master championship year for Sweden. During the first half of the summer the nation hosted the football World Cup, whilst the second half of the summer concerned the European championships in athletics. The football result was positive and led to increased expectations of success within athletics. These hopes were partially met by the male competitors. The ten competing female athletes were left medal-less. Ingrid Almqvist’s contribution did not generate much acclaim. The book Världsmästare 1958 regretfully noted that she had ‘only’ thrown 46.90 metres resulting in a ninth place ranking. If she had been up to her usual 50-metre throwing form ‘Pyret’ would have won a medal. As the book concludes, however, ‘luckily there is more than one shot’. Ingrid Almqvist’s next and final shot was the Rome Olympic games in 1960. The qualifying distance was set at 48 metres, which was a target she had surpassed several times. However, this time she did not manage it. Her throw of 47.67 meters was not enough to qualify her for the final. This brought her appearances at major international competitions to an end. When compared to her generally successful performances in Swedish and Nordic contexts her international championship outings can only be described as less than successful. She was unable to perform at her best when it really counted.
Ingrid Almqvist had continued playing handball ever since she had started in the RIK handball team. Her skills in handball resulted in her being selected for the national team on eleven occasions. She made her handball debut in the summer of 1951 in a game against Finland and the result was a win. The final match was played in January 1959 when Sweden lost to East Germany. Ingrid Almqvist’s greatest success with the national team was in 1955 when Sweden became the Nordic champions following three wins in a row in which Ingrid Almqvist had supplied several shots on goal. During her time as a handball player for RIK she played in two finals in the outdoor Swedish championships. In 1953 the team was defeated 4-3 by IFK Lidingö, and in 1956 they lost 4-1 to Guif. Ingrid Almqvist did manage to win several golds within the regional championships. She was part of the RIK team that won the indoor competitions in 1945 and 1946, as well as in 1955 and 1958.
Ingrid Almqvist’s multitalented sportsmanship was made evident by her achievement in fencing: she reached the final round in the Swedish championships. Amongst the prizes she won over the years there were also a couple from orienteering competitions.
Ingrid Almqvist died in November 2017, just one month after having turned 90 years old.