Disqualified Cali Condors Medley Relay Was Decisive Factor in Energy Standard’s ISL Final Victory

lilly king, cali condors, isl, international swiming league
The Cali Condors were disqualified in the women's 400 medley relay in the ISL final thanks to a Lilly King non-simultaneous touch -- Photo Courtesy: Mine Kasapoglu/ISL

Disqualified Cali Condors Medley Relay Was Decisive Factor in Energy Standard’s ISL Final Victory

In an alternate reality, the Cali Condors would have finished day one of the ISL final with an advantage greater than 20 points over Energy Standard, and Cali’s swimmers would have gone to bed Friday in Eindhoven having just dominated both medley relays to conclude the day’s action. Before Coleman StewartNic FinkCaeleb Dressel and Justin Ress beat out Energy Standard with an impressive effort in the men’s relay, the women’s relay would have secured a big jackpot win behind the foursome of Beata NelsonLilly KingKelsi Dahlia and Erika Brown.

Cali touched first in that women’s relay by a second-and-a-half, but moments later, the scoreboard shifted, and Energy Standard was suddenly on top — with Cali disqualified. The ISL announced that King had touched non-simultaneously on the third and final turn of her breaststroke leg, where she had out-split the field by a full second. Instead of celebrating a big win, the Cali foursome walked off crestfallen.

After leading for the entirety of day one, the relay DQ swung the team standings by more than 40 points. The Condors ended up facing a 19-point deficit at the meet’s halfway point, and on day two, despite scoring a series of huge wins and briefly taking the lead, Cali could not get over the top of Energy Standard. Energy ended up winning the 2021 league title by 12 points.

This is not to say that the relay DQ decided the title. Each event made a difference as the two top teams went back and forth, and wins such as the three upset breaststroke victories from Nic Fink certainly swung the score in favor of the Condors. But it’s not hard to look back at the relay and wonder, “What if?”

Especially because video replay of the touch is far from conclusive. Video posted to the ISL’s own Instagram page shows the turn in question, and it’s virtually impossible to notice any issue with King’s turn.

Many of the top swimmers in the world have questioned the official ruling. Annie Lazor, King’s training partner at the Indiana University but a competitor for London Roar in the ISL, commented on the ISL’s post that the DQ was “questionable.” Matt Grevers, a teammate of King’s on the 2017 and 2019 U.S. World Championships teams, wrote, “Looks like a legal turn to me.” Also making their opinions known in the comment section were 50 free Olympic silver medalist Bruno Fratus and King’s fellow Cali Condors breaststroker Emily Escobedo, and both insisted the turn was legal.

So a questionable judgement call on a turn decided a league championship? That’s surely a hard reality for the Condors to accept.

And of course, it’s worth remembering that this is not the first time that King has been disqualified for an illegal touch on her turn. At the 2019 World Championships, King was DQ’ed in the 200 breaststroke prelims for a similar violation, and King has expressed skepticism about the motives for that DQ.

“This is my personal theory, completely and totally a conspiracy theory,” King said earlier this year. “I said FINA was corrupt the day before the meeting started because they let Sun Yang swim. And they said, ‘Alright, you did an illegal turn in the 200 breaststroke in prelims.’ I think that’s what happened. I’m pretty confident that’s what happened.”

The ISL has banned all swimmers with a history of anti-doping violations, so surely the league would support King’s comments, but the common demnoimator between the two situations are the questionable nature of the calls against King and their timing in very significant moments.

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Rick Smith
8 months ago

The beginning of the end of ISL.