Caeleb Dressel, Ryan Murphy Chasing ‘Race Shape’ as 2020 ISL Season Dawns

Foto Fabio Ferrari/LaPresse 20 Dicembre 2019 Las Vegas - USA sport nuoto 2019 ISL - International Swimming League Nella foto: DRESSEL Caeleb Photo Fabio Ferrari/LaPresse December 20, 2019 Las Vegas - USA sport swimming 2019 ISL - International Swimming League In the picture: DRESSEL Caeleb
Cali Condor's Caeleb Dressel; Photo Courtesy: Fabio Ferrari/LaPresse

Caeleb Dressel, Ryan Murphy Chasing ‘Race Shape’ as 2020 ISL Season Dawns

The restlessness started to set in for Caeleb Dressel in late August. He’d been training somewhat regularly throughout the summer, with only slight intrusions from the COVID-19 pandemic on his training with Gregg Troy at the University of Florida.

But as summer waned, Dressel started to feel a calendar he’s been attuned to since he was 12, almost as if embedded in his bones. The summer would elapse without a major competition for the first time in longer than the world record holder could recall. The training was great, but the lack of racing stung.

It’s why Dressel didn’t think twice about being part of the 2020 International Swimming League season, even with it isolated to a bubble in Budapest. As the Cali Condors leader said several times at an introductory press conference Thursday, racing was something he has “craved”.

“We haven’t had that this year,” Dressel told international media via Zoom. “Everyone’s all over the place. My base is super high but I haven’t been racing, so I don’t know what to expect. All I need to do to get into race shape is race, and that’s what I’m going to be doing for the next six weeks. So I’m very excited.”

The 2019 Finals MVP and leading race-winner in the inaugural ISL season had no qualms about the ISL 2020 season, even if it required international travel and nearly two months in Hungary. He sees it as a necessary part of his preparation for the Tokyo Olympics, compensating for the racing lost as coronavirus wiped the summer schedule clean.

“I see ISL as a huge benefit to my swim career as a whole, and not just something I feel like I have to go to because I’m on the Condors or because I’m a swimmer,” Dressel said. “I want to do this, I want to be here and I think I need to be here to make me better.”

Ryan Murphy echoed that idea. The LA Current leader and backstroke world record holder made a crucial distinction between race shape and training shape. Being in Budapest for six weeks doesn’t detract from the building process heading into an Olympic year. To the contrary, it contributes a necessary element, as he’s worked out with coach Dave Durden. And Murphy is excited to train with the LA group, which he believes will push him.

ISL: Ryan Murphy

LA Current’s Ryan Murphy; Photo Courtesy: Gian Mattia D’Alberto/LaPresse

It’s why the self-professed paranoid traveler donned a mask, face shield and sunglasses for the flight from San Francisco to Budapest last week for the ISL 2020 season.

“He (Durden) has definitely got his eye on next summer,” Murphy said. “And the way he views this fall, the past couple of months, we’ve been able to put in a lot of work when we can. We’ve been going singles and for those two hours we’re in the water, we’ve been putting in really solid work, and now it’s time to see where that puts us in terms of a racing standpoint.”

Murphy sees the schedule as easily integrated into his regimen. At the University of California, he’s used to logging what four hard days a week. ISL racing will provide two of those, including back-to-back heavy days, which he isn’t used to. There’s also a psychological benefit to being around elite swimmers, something lost in the dislocation of pandemic-related lockdowns.

With safety concerns addressed by the ISL’s comprehensive medical protocols, Murphy feels safe pursuing the second season.

“We’re here, and that’s the great thing,” he said. “I think one of the things that’s been asked is how we felt safe here, and we do feel safe. We did two tests before we left. We’ve done two tests since we’ve been here, and it’s gone really well. So I’m excited to finally, hopefully, be tested a little bit less often and racing a little bit more and getting back to doing what I love to do.”

The California teams finished first and second in the American Conference last year, with the LA Current winning the College Park meet. Both advanced to the ISL Final Match, the Condors finishing third and the Current fourth.

The Condors lost a pair of big point-getters in Australians Mitch Larkin and Ariarne Titmus, who opted out, along with many of their countrymen. Mallory Comerford also opted out, but the Condors added Haley Anderson, Lia Neal and Allison Schmitt for the ISL 2020 season.

The Current signed Ali DeLoof, Maxime Rooney and Abbey Weitzeil to compensate for losses to the expansion teams, the Tokyo Frog Kings and Toronto Titans.

The ISL season is such an important part of Dressel’s training regimen that he felt secure being away from his fiancée as they prep for their wedding in February. It helps that Budapest is hallowed ground, the site of his seven-gold-medal coming out party at the 2017 World Championships, as Dressel memorialized with an Instagram post of his younger, less-tattooed self.

He’s excited to be back there for more.

“We’re looking forward to racing,” he said. “It’s something we’ve been hungry for since March. We’re looking forward to the next six weeks. We know it’s going to be a lot of back-to-back racing, but that’s what we’re craving at the moment.”

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