How Team Tactics Can Save Triple-Point Skins: League Lessons On The Road To Vegas

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Caeleb Dressel had a handle on Florent Manaudou but Chad le Clos, in the picture, proved what all know - no-one is unbeatable; it's just that Dressel has multi-swim teeth grown in Gator school of Gregg Troy - Photo Courtesy: Eurosport

Team Tactics Can Save Triple-Point Skins

The logic of putting Cate Campbell and Emma McKeon alongside Ranomi Kromowidjojo in the Dallas Match Skins knockout is easy to follow: if the pace of Cate and Emma left no room for Ranomi to take her foot off the gas in the rounds and yet the dashing Dutch diva somehow survived, then Roar had in both Cate and Emma, the 200m charge in a test of stamina, capabilities of polishing off the Orange Iron.

It came close enough to working – but did not, 24.46 to 24.79, Kromowidjojo the winner over McKeon – for the play to have been worth the punt, especially in Dallas. To win the Match, London Roar had to keep its prowl and purpose fixed on LA Current, not Team Iron. There was room for experiment.

As so often in swimming, it came down to how close to best under top-race-set-training conditions the athlete could get, where the final test was about which individuals had what left in their tanks after punishing race schedules on the way to the curtain-closing Skins.

Kromowidjojo – 1:55 s/c and 1:59 l/c 200m on the record – was not the push-over of “pure-sprinter” perception. Coaches will doubtless have known that Ranomi would not be that far back from Emma at the 150m mark of a 200m, especially given a chance to catch breath after each 50.

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Caeleb Dressel after showing his multi-swim teeth in the Naples Skins – Photo Courtesy: Eurosport

The relative strengths of the women Skins made for a better alchemy of entertainment than the same equations among the men, Vladimir Morozov‘s win over Nathan Adrian in Dallas mirroring the lighter-slighter-man over heftier-beefier outcome in Naples the week before when Cali Condors ace Caeleb Dressel trounced Florent Manaudou. The mind-the-gap feel to both men’s curtain-closing showdowns delivered something fo an anti-climax to the action.

It was as though we were standing at the final scene, Poirot luring us with cunning interrogation on the way to weeding out the killer, only to have one of the cast stand centre stage wielding a dripping knife and bearing a blood-soaked sign screaming “I did it! It was definitely me!”

So, let’s take a short time-warp to the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, Las Vegas, December 20-21. Imagine for a moment that Roar and Energy from Europe, Current and Condors from the U.S. are the aquatic versions, with a touch less money but on a fine pathway nonetheless, of Real Madrid, FC Barcelona, Manchester United and Bayern Munich.

The Skinsmen and women of the pool are the strikers; hand on wall, ball in net, so to speak.

What will the Skins look like in Vegas? First up, there’ll be no Ranomi the rocket nor Vlad the Siberian sizzler. It’ll be down to something like this … from…

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Sarah Sjostrom – Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Women:

  • Current: Margo Geer, Andrea Murez, Alyssa Tetzloff
  • Condors: Mallory Comerford, Signe Bro; Kelsi Dahlia,
  • Energy: Sarah Sjostrom, Femke Heemskerk, Charlotte Bonnet, Kayla Sanchez
  • Roar: Cate Campbell, Bronte Campbell, Emma McKeon, Jeanette Ottesen

Men:

  • Current: Nathan Adrian, Dylan Carter, Michael Chadwick, Ryan Held, Blake Pieroni
  • Condors: Caeleb Dressel, Bowe Becker, Townley Haas, Kacper Majchrzak, Justin Ress
  • Energy: Florent Manaudou, Ben Proud, Simonas Bilis, Ivan Girev, Kliment Kolesnikov, Chad le Clos, Evgeny Rylov, Sergey Shevtsov
  • Roar: Bruno Fratus, Kyle Chalmers, Cameron McEvoy, Yuri Kisil, Duncan Scott,

Going purely on historic results, you’d be looking at first-round results that leave a line-up from the following powerhouses:

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Florent Manaudou – Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Women:

  • Current: Margo Geer
  • Condors: Mallory Comerford
  • Energy: Sarah Sjostrom, Femke Heemskerk
  • Roar: Cate Campbell, Bronte Campbell, Emma McKeon

Men:

  • Current: Nathan Adrian
  • Condors: Caeleb Dressel
  • Energy: Florent Manaudou, Ben Proud
  • Roar: Bruno Fratus, Kyle Chalmers, Cameron McEvoy

Can anyone triple like Sjostrom and Dressel? Can Heemskerk and other swift world-class stand-ins protect their speedier mates from rival pincers to secure top points for Energy and Condors… ?

What’s your prediction?

Watch for anyone to spoil the form guide but watch for the Roar in particular as far as tactics and strategy go.

Who can teams save through the meet to make sure of Skins are cut to the bone of top speed?

In Dallas, Bronte Campbell sat out and Emma McKeon was the swimmer who proved she could go the pace and get closest to Ranomi Kromowidjojo.

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Emma McKeon found herself in the Skins showdown in Dallas. – Photo Courtesy: Eurosport

Sister Skins: could it be that the pace and pincer of Cate and Bronte in the second round could force Sjostrom, Heemskerk and Co to have to be at their rattling best before the showdown?

Dressel is the man to beat in the line-ups above. He’s a Gator with multiple-swim sharp teeth in the Gregg Troy mould. Hard to see a strategy that could stop him barring this one: peak power in the first round and/or the second round, deliberately aimed at making sure he doesn’t make the showdown. If he does, he and the Condors may well be quids in, regardless of how many times Dressel has raced in the curtain-closing session before the climax of Skins.

It is not written into the rules this year but the League and its teams may want to think about how to add edge to the Skins, including all-stroke skins in which the winner gets to choose the stroke for the next round. For the Final Matches of the future, it may also be interesting to allow each team who makes the cut to invite one male and one female wildcard from the teams who did not make it for Skins action.

The invited swimmer would then share any earnings and success of the team on which he or she is a visitor with his own squad. Kromowidjojo and Morozov, of Iron, Michael Andrew of NY Breakers, and, if an all-strokes element is introduced, the likes of Lilly King, of DC Trident, might then add spice to the Final Match.

It makes no sense for the likes of King, Adam Peaty, Chad Le Clos and in the ranks of 200 and 400m Katie Ledecky, Ariarne Titmus and Co to have no chance whatsoever of ever being MPV. That is among matters that need revision.

All of which, among other factors, raises the next big question: transfers.

A time period for transfers has not yet been announced by the ISL. Will it have one? Will there be financial incentives for swimmers to say “I used to Roar, now I’ll Soar Like a Condor” and so on and so forth?

The dynamics and format win the League is in its infancy. There’s room for improvement – and thrills and spills to come.