Five Races to Watch as Season Two of ISL Climbs the Blocks

Hali Flickinger of the Cali Condors - Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Five Races to Watch as Season Two of ISL Climbs the Blocks

The first matchup of the 2020 International Swimming League is just a couple days away as three of the four finalists from last season will be racing in the first weekend after a long year where not a lot of swimming has unfolded because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Many of the world’s best swimmers have convened in Hungary on Margaret Island to participate in a condensed six-week schedule in a “bubble” format to isolate the swimmers from the coronavirus so they can acclimate to the hotel and pool facility and not worry about a virus outbreak.

This weekend’s first meet will begin on Friday, October 16 at 4 p.m. Budapest time with last year’s champs Energy Standard, last year’s American champs LA Current, last year’s Vegas finalists Cali Condors and the New York Breakers.

Here are some particular races that will be intriguing to watch:

Women’s 100 Fly


Sarah Sjostrom of Energy Standard. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Last year’s season MVP Sarah Sjostrom of Energy Standard will face Kelsi Dahlia of the Cali Condors. Although Sjostrom is the world record holder in this event, Dahlia had the quickest time in the world last year, getting the better of the Swede at the Vegas finale at the end of last season. The two will likely face off in their best event as Dahlia has been known to be stronger off the walls, while Sjostrom is still one of the quickest women in the world.

If anyone can take down Sjostrom or Dahlia, watch for Anastasiya Shkurdai of Energy Standard, who had the third fastest time in the world for 2019 and showed some speed earlier this summer in a long course time trial.

Men’s 100 Breaststroke


Ilya Shymanovich of Energy Standard. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

This will be a particularly interesting matchup to see Ilya Shymanovich of Energy Standard back up his world leading time from European Championships last year. Shymanovich was a 55.8 in December before managing only a 56.5 in Vegas a couple weeks later. Nic Fink of the Cali Condors was on fire in Vegas, taking wins in the 50 & 200 breaststroke. What does he have up his sleeve in Budapest this week as he seemingly gets better with age?

Also watch for Will Licon of the L.A. Current and Michael Andrew of the New York Breakers. Both guys are great racers, and Andrew may get the better of everybody if he is on form, and opts for the event.

Women’s 50 Freestyle


Abbey Weitzeil of the LA Current. Photo Courtesy: Connor Trimble

Abbey Weitzeil of the L.A. Current and Erika Brown of the Cali Condors were never able to clash at last year’s NCAAs in the 50 or 100 freestyle as it was expected to result in a record-breaking performance with perhaps multiple swimmers under 21 seconds in short course yards. Nearly seven months later, they will line up side by side for the first time as professional swimmers in a race that is long overdue. Add in Olympic gold medalist Pernille Blume of Energy Standard and perhaps Sjostrom and Beryl Gastaldello of the L.A. Current, and this will be a can’t miss race.

100 IM


Michael Andrew of the New York Breakers. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

One of the new additions to the ISL will be the 100 IM, an event strictly for short course swimming. It is going to be a popular event for the swimmers as it will be up to who has the best underwater skills, mixed with speed in all four strokes. It is unclear who will race this event just yet, but names like Caeleb DresselMichael AndrewAndrew Seliskar and Florent Manaudou come to mind as men that could be successful in this event among the four teams participating this weekend. On the women’s side, Beata NelsonSiobhan Haughey, Beryl Gastaldello and Daria Ustinova could be potential big point scorers for their team.

With only 100 meters to work with, this event could get very unpredictable, and it will certainly be fun to watch. And who knows, some have predicted that this world record will fall more than once this season.

Medley Relays


Lilly King of the Cali Condors. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

With the new rule changes, the winner of the medley relay will get to select what stroke the Skins event will be held in at the end of the session. A lot will be on the line, so these relays will be extra intriguing to follow because it could spell out who is winning at the end of the day.

On the women’s side, the Condors look unbeatable with the presence of Olivia SmoligaLilly KingKelsi Dahlia and Erika Brown, while Energy Standard will back-load its relay with a likely line-up of Emily SeebohmBreeja Larson, Sarah Sjostrom and Siobhan Haughey. On paper, it looks like those two women’s relays will be the likely winners but anything can happen when the athletes get to the racing venue.

On the men’s side, Energy Standard looks like the team to beat in the medley relay with a likely lineup of Kliment Kolesnikov, Ilya ShymanovichChad Le Clos and Simonas Bilis, while the Current have strong options with a potential order of Ryan MurphyWill Licon, Tom Shields and Maxime Rooney. The Condors and Breakers will have strong legs from Caeleb Dressel and Michael Andrew as expected, it’s just a matter of putting together four legs to win the relay and select the Skins stroke.

Participating Teams in Opener: Energy StandardCali CondorsNew York BreakersLA Current

  • October 16 – 10 a.m. (New York); 4 p.m. (Budapest); 11 p.m. (Japan)
  • October 17 – 2 p.m. (New York); 8 p.m. (Budapest); 3 a.m. (Japan)



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