Memory sport has been dominated by men for over two decades now. But the tides are turning with more and more amazing female memory athletes appearing all around the world. We are starting a special interview series about the women in our sport with Emma Andersson, a brilliant junior from Sweden, who is already a world record holder in the adult class of the discipline called Abstract Images.

Memory-Sports.com: Tell us a bit about yourself

Emma Anderson: I’m 17 years old and live in Gothenburg, Sweden, with my mom, dad, sister and two dogs. When I’m not in school or studying I do memory training and train parkour. I also enjoy to hang out with my friends, to take photos and making videos. I have also competed in a few table hockey competitions just for fun.

Memory-Sports.com: How did you get to memory sports?

Emma Anderson: It was in the end of the summer of 2013 that I first heard about memory techniques and that you could compete in it. My mom and I were in the car when Jonas von Essen was being interviewed on the radio. Actually, only just two or three days before that I got a book with memory techniques, but I hadn’t read much in it before that day he was on the radio. Then I think it was a few weeks after that I contacted Idriz Zogaj (editorial note: the Swedish memory team coach). A while later, I attended the Swedish Memory Championship. At this point I had barely done any training at all, though I remember that I had a lot of fun and felt very welcome at the competition.

Memory-Sports.com: How does your training influence your school life?

Emma Anderson: My training influences my studies in a lot of ways. I can use the techniques to learn things faster and it also makes studying more fun. Since I started to train more I have also gotten a lot better at planning my time and it’s easier to motivate myself to finish my school work, knowing that I can do more memory training when I’m done. The best motivation is telling myself that I can do abstract images when I’m done with something.

My training influences my studies in a lot of ways. I can use the techniques to learn things faster and it also makes studying more fun.

Emma Andersson

Memory Athlete, Sweden

Memory-Sports.com: Did you ignite your friends at school with enthusiasm about memory techniques?

Emma Anderson: I have some friends that have started to try it and who wants to learn more about it. Sometimes when I study with friends I help them to remember things with memory techniques.

Memory-Sports.com: Do you think it would be helpful to teach memory techniques at schools and universities and how would you imagine that?

Emma Anderson: Absolutely, I think memory techniques would be helpful for students and it’s important that they try it themselves to see how well it works. I also think it’s good to make it clear to students that though it can be a bit difficult in the beginning, it will get easier with practice. I found it hard to use the techniques for school in the beginning but I’m getting better and better at it. Everyone is different. My sister is studying at university level and I help her prepare for most of her exams by coaching her in memory techniques. This helps her learn more efficiently as well as it makes studying and even writing exams more fun for her. Using this way of studying is also a fun activity as we get to make up silly stories together.

I think memory techniques would be helpful for students and it’s important that they try it themselves to see how well it works.

Emma Andersson

Memory Athlete, Sweden

Memory-Sports.com: How often do you train your memory?

Emma Anderson: Usually between 30 minutes to an hour every day before school, and then more when I get home and how much depends on how much I have to study and how much I feel like to train. On weekends and holidays when I don’t have school I train more. Right now I’m working on a 3-digit system so that’s what I spend most of my time on now. 

Memory-Sports.com: You broke the world record for Abstract images. How did you do it and are you sad to see the discipline being replaced by the International Association of Memory?

Emma Anderson: I started to create a system for it in the beginning of 2016 and then I started to like it more and more. In the end of March I decided that I wanted to try to reach the junior world record. I thought it was a very high goal and that there was a big risk that I wouldn’t reach it. But after five weeks of much training I could memorize more than that. At the US Memory Open in July 2016 I got the junior world record and after that I really wanted to try to do over 500. At that competition I also met Lance Tschirhart for the first time who has been helping me a lot. I started to push myself more to do it faster and it didn’t took long before I was over 500. My goal after that was 600 and it felt amazing when I did that for the first time!

The Swedish Memory Open was the 17th and 18th of September and I was both nervous and excited for it. Both Lance and Marwin have helped me and they made me believe more in myself and that I actually had a chance to reach the record. I still thought that I was going to get too nervous at the competition day to be able to do it but they made me feel better so I’m really thankful for that. I don’t think I could have done it without them. And luckily I managed to keep calm and it felt really good during memorization. That day it was hard to take in and process that I had broken a world record. I have found a way to memorize them that I really like and that works well for me. The short answer on how I memorize them is that I don’t review and for most of the textures I have 2-3 different images to choose between and I place four on each locus. I really love abstract images and the feeling I get when memorizing them is a feeling I don’t get by doing anything else so of course I am sad to see them replaced. 

Memory-Sports.com: Do you believe you have talent or is it all training?

Emma Anderson: I remember when I started to train that I thought that I never could become good at this, thinking I didn’t have talent for it. I knew that it was many many hours of training that made people really good at it but I still thought I couldn’t. One of the reasons for that was because it was hard for me to visualize in the beginning. That is something I have gotten a lot better at over time. I think I’m good at abstract images because of all the hours of training that I have put in, that I have wanted it so much, and that I have been really focused on my goals – and of course also because I love it so much. 

Memory-Sports.com: To break an adult world record as a junior is very rare and difficult. What does it mean to you?

Emma Anderson: It means a lot. A year ago I thought that breaking a world record was something that I could only dream of. But then I started to love abstract images. Something I have learnt from this is that I can do so much more than I think if I just put my mind to it. I have spent a lot of time training and thinking about abstract images in the past months and I have felt now how it is to really want something and work for it. After this, a lot more things feel possible to achieve. This is why abstract images and this record means so much to me.  

I remember when I started to train that I thought that I never could become good at this, thinking I didn’t have talent for it.

Emma Andersson

Memory Athlete, Sweden

Memory-Sports.com: What fascinates you about competing, besides the events themselves?

Emma Anderson: I’m not really a person that likes to compete when it comes to other things. I like to do things just for fun. That’s why I really like memory competitions. Everyone is welcome whether you want to fight in the top or just be there for fun. Before I only competed because it was fun and didn’t care about my results. Now, when I train more, that has changed but I still enjoy the competitions because of the friendly atmosphere. The best part about competitions is to meet people and get inspired. I have met a lot of awesome people. 🙂  

Memory-Sports.com: There are mostly men competing at memory championships. Do you have an idea why? And how can we attract more women?

Emma Anderson: That is a difficult question for which I don’t have a good answer to.  

Memory-Sports.com: What is your favorite memory from the sport?

Emma Anderson: Breaking the junior world record was a big thing for me, and of course getting the world record is one of my very top moments! But it was something very special about doing over 600 abstract images for the first time in training so I think that is my favorite. The feeling I got after doing that was fantastic! It felt amazing that I could do something like that.  

Memory-Sports.com: What is your ideal vision for the future of memory sports?

Emma Anderson: I would like to see a lot more people doing this, knowing about the sport and memory techniques. I think it’s good that there are different forms of competitions so there is something for everyone. Hopefully in the future, there will be more competitions that are held at new locations to make memory sports more accessible.

Memory-Sports.com: Thank you for your time, Emma!

The best part about competitions is to meet people and get inspired. I have met a lot of awesome people.

Emma Andersson

Memory Athlete, Sweden