Analysis: American Records, World Junior Record, Shocks And Top-Class Racing As ISL Makes A Very Welcome Return

international-swimming-league-Foto Gian Mattia D'Alberto/LaPresse 21 Dicembre 2019 Las Vegas - USA sport nuoto 2019 ISL - International Swimming League. Nella foto: SJOSTROM Sarah Photo Gian Mattia D'Alberto/LaPresse December 21, 2019 Las Vegas - USA sport swimming 2019 ISL - International Swimming League. In the picture: SJOSTROM Sarah
Sarah Sjostrom: Photo Courtesy: Gian Mattia D'Alberto/LaPresse

Sarah Sjostrom was dominant, Caeleb Dressel found himself in unfamiliar waters and Lilly King went 19 for 19 as the International Swimming League (ISL) season made a fast and furious start in Budapest.

Benedetta Pilato set a world junior record of 28.97 in the 50m breaststroke and so too a national record for King of 28.86.

Olivia Smoliga pulled out an astonishing 25.74 in the 50 backstroke – just 0.07 off the world record of 25.67 set by Brazil’s Etiene Medeiros in December 2014 as she lowered her own American mark.

So too a national record for King in the 50 breaststroke of 28.86 and Melanie Margalis who stopped the clock at 2:04.06 in the 200IM.

Check out the Day 1 recap

Maxime Rooney was enjoying life in the outside lane with third in the 100 fly and touching first with LA Current in the 4×100 free and 4×100 medley relays.


Lilly King Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

And with the latter performance he ensured LA Current would have the pick of the strokes for the skins, back-to-back knockout races where the two remaining swimmers go in a head-to-head final.

A new innovation this season means the winners of the medley relay can choose which stroke to race and LA Current coach Dave Marsh said they would probably go for the backstroke and the prowess of Ryan Murphy. Or then again maybe the fly where Tom Shields sprung a shock on Friday as he beat Dressel with Rooney in third.

Jackpot times are another new introduction: they are determined in advance and if an athlete is ahead of other swimmers by a margin bigger than that time then the points of those athletes are awarded to the race winner.

Five swimmers donated their points to Smoliga in the 50 back such was the dominance of her victory.

Marsh said to Eurosport: “This jackpot is crazy – I mean what the heck?”

But it was just so good to once more witness competition: for the swimmers – whose smiles, cliched as it sounds, lit up the Duna Arena – and for everyone looking on.


Maxime Rooney: Photo Courtesy: Connor Trimble

It goes without saying that health, lives and livelihoods are the priorities in this most difficult of years when Covid-19 has wreaked havoc across the world and shows no signs of abating.

So too does a desire to compete exist for all athletes who have had to accept, adjust and reset following the postponement of Tokyo 2020.

Dave Durden, the USA men’s Olympic team coach, described the six-week competition as a swimming utopia where all present get to train and compete alongside the best of the best.

There were no spectators, face coverings were donned and social distancing observed – sport in 2020.

Sjostrom, King and Rooney Stand Out With New Territory For Dressel

Energy Standard have never been beaten in the International Swimming League but at the end of the first day the Gloria-based team lie second behind Cali Condors, who lead 280pts to 235 ahead of LA Current (214) and New York Breakers (154).

Sjostrom was simply irresistible.

The Swede was last season’s MVP with 13 victories and she lined up in the opening race of the season – the 100 fly – with six of the 10 fastest-times in history, Kelsi Dahlia of the Condors holder of the other four.

Sjostrom led from start to finish, her underwaters sublime, to get the first victory of the ISL season.

The triple Olympic medallist led the 50 free from the start, demonstrating her power off the wall at halfway, not taking a breath down the last 25 and always maintaining her speed.

In between came the 4×100 free where she made up a 1.3-second deficit at the start and outsplit the field by 2.6secs to anchor Energy Standard to victory.


Olivia Smoliga: Photo Courtesy: Becca Wyant

Shields sprung a shock in the first men’s race when he won the 100 fly from lane eight despite the fast finish of Dressel.

Dressel and Chad Le Clos were in the centre lanes and the American had his customary superb start but it was Rooney who forged ahead and led at the 75m mark with Shields coming past him to take the win.

Le Clos finished fourth.

The men’s 50 free was blessed with Florent Manaudou and Dressel and it was the Frenchman who won, bumping fists with the American who had now gone two individual races without stopping the clock first.

King was unbeaten last year and she was a body-length ahead after 50 of the 200 breaststroke. She finished, red-faced and blowing hard, no compromise in her competition, just an iron will to win.

Then came the 50 where she lowered her own national mark set at the grand finale in Las Vegas in December 2019 – although she was pushed close by Italian 15-year-old and world championship silver medallist Pilato, who lowered her own PB of 29.32 from last year’s European Short-Course Championships.


Caeleb Dressel: Photo Courtesy: Fabio Ferrari/LaPresse

King was joined by Smoliga, Dahlia and Erika Brown in the medley relay and they held off Sjostrom, who was gaining with every stroke, as the Cali Condors ensured they would be choosing the stroke of choice in the skins. Breaststroke in all probability.

Margalis won the 400 free and 200IM while Danys Rapsys marked his International Swimming League debut with a win in the men’s 400.

It was all breathless stuff. In one sense a slight sadness there was no-one there to watch in person but a thankfulness for all that competition has returned.

Advertising: Shop At Swim360



  1. Amir Liberman

    where can we see the fukk results of the idl compatition?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.