Great Britain’s Molly Renshaw Forging Ahead on Road to Tokyo Despite ISL Omission

Molly Renshaw
Photo Courtesy: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

Molly Renshaw is in search of a second Olympic berth. Swimming World intern Ally Wright, a Loughborough University classmate and friend of Renshaw, has her story.

The International Swimming League has quickly become one of the most significant innovations within the world of swimming, drawing impressive global audiences and sparking the interests of many within the swimming community. The ISL not only facilitates the development of professional swimmers, but perhaps more interestingly, shifts the focus away from a sport focused exclusively on the success of individuals, toward a more team-oriented approach.

While the league has been deemed “ground-breaking”, and a “major win for swimmers,” inevitably, not every elite athlete has been lucky enough to be selected to swim on the traveling roster of one of the eight ISL teams. In its current setup, the ISL limits team sizes to 28 athletes, forcing team managers to apply a strategic approach to their selections, incorporating the strengths and weaknesses of not just their own athletes, but their opponents, too.

Of course, for the likes of Caeleb Dressel and Katinka Hosszu, who can be safely relied upon to deliver across a wide range of events, there is no risk of being dropped. However, for athletes who specialize in just one or two events, selection is not quite as straight forward. A handful of well-known athletes fall into this category, including British breaststroke standout Molly Renshaw. Although a breaststroke specialist, Renshaw’s status as a former world short course champion from 2016 who excels in the little pool has made her omission from the inaugural ISL season a bit unexpected.

Swimming with the National Centre at Loughborough University under the guidance of Dave Hemmings, Renshaw has asserted herself as one of Britain’s finest swimmers. An Olympic finalist, former world champion, as well as European and Commonwealth medalist, Renshaw has proven herself at the pinnacle of competitive swimming. Following her descent from three weeks of altitude training in Arizona, Swimming World caught up with Molly to discuss her situation with the ISL, as well as the Olympic season ahead.

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Photo Courtesy: Becca Wyant

When asked about her initial thoughts on the ISL, Renshaw noted that it is “definitely a game changer for a lot of people,” pointing to the host of swimmers who have ventured out of retirement, enticed by the potential winnings available across the ISL platform. Renshaw preferred not to specifically discuss her individual omission, but indicated hope that she would race in ISL waters in the future and provide the chance to “compete against the best in the world on a regular basis.” Interestingly, Renshaw indicated that her preferred team would be either “London Roar or Energy Standard,” the dominant European teams.

Given that Adam Peaty, the London Roar captain, is also based at Loughborough, and the sizable percentage of British swimmers making up the London Roar and Energy Standard rosters, Renshaw’s preference is not particularly surprising. However, while both Energy Standard and London Roar have been dominant in their recent matches, the addition of Renshaw to those squads, or any for that matter, could be beneficial for all parties. For perspective on Renshaw’s ability, her best time in the 200 breaststroke would have won three of the four ISL meets conducted to date.

Given the publicity and media attention the ISL has attracted over recent months, Renshaw would be forgiven for allowing her omission to affect her Olympic preparation. However, that has not been the case. Instead, the former world champion says she feels “no additional pressure” leading up to the European Short Course Championships in Glasgow in December, with “absolutely nothing to prove”. In fact, Renshaw leans on the fact she has an impressive track record in Scotland, winning a bronze medal in her main event, the 200m breaststroke, at both the 2014 Commonwealth Games and once again, last year, at the European Long Course Championships.

After finishing sixth, and coming agonizingly close to realizing her “childhood dream” of winning an Olympic medal in 2016, Renshaw explained that she is doing everything possible both in and out of the pool to ensure she is “in the best possible condition to succeed at next summer’s Olympic Games”.

Renshaw will compete in the 50m, 100m and 200m breaststroke at the European Short Course Championships next month, then turn her attention to qualifying for the Olympic Games via the British Swimming Championships next April.

Renshaw is hopeful that in preparation for her Olympic year, her training at altitude for three weeks will accelerate the often lethargic start to a swimming cycle. She indicated that while an Olympic year is identical to any other in terms of the physical demands on her body, the mental approach is significantly different.

“Training so far has been going very well,” Renshaw said. “We (had) been away training at high altitude for three weeks in Arizona to try and get as fit as we possibly can in order to accelerate the start of the season which is usually a struggle. Now we’re back home and we are continuing to build on our fitness and starting to introduce more speed and race-pace work to set us up for the upcoming short course racing. I think the training is equally as hard throughout the quad of training, but I feel people tend to have a different mindset going into the Olympic year. It allows swimmers to to push themselves further than they probably ever have, which in turn does make the training harder, I guess, as you’re striving to be the best version of yourself in every aspect.”

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