ISL Final, Day One: Controversial Cali Condors Relay DQ Puts Energy Standard in Front

isl-sarah-sjostrom-SJOSTROM Sarah ENS Energy Standard (ENS) ISL International Swimming League 2021 Match 9 day 2 Piscina Felice Scandone Napoli, Naples Photo Giorgio Scala / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto
Energy Standard's Sarah Sjostrom -- Photo Courtesy: Giorgio Scala / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

ISL Final, Day One: Controversial Cali Condors Relay DQ Puts Energy Standard in Front

For almost all of day one of the ISL final, the Cali Condors held the lead. Kelsi Dahlia set a world record in the 100 butterflyBeata Nelson took first in the 200 backstroke, and Lilly King led a Cali 1-2 in the 200 breaststroke, and then Cali’s Nic Fink upset Ilya Shymanovich to win the men’s 200 breast and 50 breast, setting an American record in the later distanceJustin Ress provided two monumental relay anchor legs to give Cali a sweep of the men’s relays, including an American record in the 400 medley relay.

But in the women’s 400 medley relay, Cali was disqualified after earning a dominant win after King executed an illegal turn on the final wall of the breaststroke leg. That gave Energy a 30-point jackpot win and 38 total points for the race, compared to Cali’s eight. After that Energy Standard ended up with a 21-point lead over the Condors after day one of the meet. The 2019 league champions will attempt to hold off the 2020-champion Condors on the final day of action, when Cali has many strong events remaining.

In route to taking the lead, Energy Standard picked up wins from Evgeny Rylov in the men’s 200 back, Siobhan Haughey in the women’s 400 free, Sarah Sjostrom and Ben Proud in their respective 50 freestyle races and from a dominant women’s group in the 400 freestyle relay.

Team Scores Through Day One:

  1. Energy Standard 271
  2. Cali Condors 250
  3. London Roar 206
  4. LA Current 171

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Women’s 100 Butterfly

After narrowly missing the U.S. Olympic team, Kelsi Dahlia returned for the third ISL season with a vengence. Prior to the ISL final, the Cali Condors star had won the 100 fly in six of her seven appearances, and she broke the ISL record with a 54.89 in the fourth playoff match. In the final, Dahlia faced off against a phenomenal field that included world-record holder Sarah Sjostrom and Australian star Emma McKeon, who won seven medals at the Tokyo Olympics.

Against that outstanding field, Dahlia was dominant. She was out in 25.85, a tenth under Sjostrom’s world-record pace (25.96). McKeon was just a tenth behind at that point, but Dahlia exploded off the walls and pulled away on the second 50. Dahlia finished in 54.59, clipping Sjostrom’s 2014 world record of 54.61 by two hundredths.

“It’s so surreal. I don’t think it will hit me for a bit. It’s really special,” Dahlia said in an on-deck interview after the race. “That was an amazing heat. They were all great competitors. I was just sticking to my race plan. I wanted to get the match off to a great start for the Condors.”

McKeon, representing the London Roar, ended up finishing over a second behind Dahlia in 55.66, and McKeon’s London teammate Marie Wattel took third in 56.01. Sjostrom ended up fourth in 56.17.

Men’s 100 Butterfly

The first men’s race of the ISL final saw the first upset, and it was a big one as LA Current’s Tom Shields took down Cali Condors’ Caeleb Dressel. Dressel is the world-record holder in this event at 47.78, and he also holds the long course world record, set on his way to Olympic gold at the Tokyo Games. But Shields, in lane eight, took the race out hard in 22.80, with Energy Standad’s Chad le Clos and London Roar’s Vini Lanza also turning ahead of Dressel at the halfway point. Dressel then made a charge with a 26.04 closing split that was the fastest in the field, but Shields held tough and took the victory.

Shields won in 49.03, two tenths ahead of Dressel in 49.23. Dressel and Shields have both broken 49 on multiple occasions during this ISL season, and Aqua Centurions’ Matteo Rivolta has also been that quick, but Shields had enough to get the job done on this particular day. Le Clos, who missed time this season with a knee injury, took third in 49.54, and Lanza also broke 50 in finishing fourth (49.91).

Women’s 200 Backstroke

Cali Condors’ Beata Nelson has been this season’s dominant swimmer in the women’s 200 backstroke, winning the events six times in her seven appearances, and it was no surprise to see her finishing more than a second ahead of the field in the event. Nelson had owned the top time in the ISL this season at 2:00.55, and she lowered that as she touched in 2:00.33. However, she finished just off Missy Franklin’s American record of 2:00.03 that has stood for more than a decade.

Meanwhile, ISL-record holder Minna Atherton of the London Roar was second to Nelson with 50 meters to go, but Energy Standard’s Anastasiya Shkurdai and LA Current’s Ingrid Wilm closed hard to steal the spots in the top-three. Shkurdai took second in 2:01.51, and Wilm claimed third in 2:02.38, just six hundredths ahead of Atherton (2:02.44).

Men’s 200 Backstroke

In a showdown between the Olympic gold and silver medalists in the men’s 200 backstroke, the winner of that race again got the better of the runnerup. Energy Standard’s Evgeny Rylov had won the 200 back just three times all season, while Cali Condors’ Ryan Murphy swam the fastest time of the ISL season (1:48.10) in his victory in the fifth playoff match. But here, Rylov went out hard and led by more than half a second through the middle portion of the race.

Murphy, meanwhile, was third with 50 meters to go, and he closed hard in 27.53 (almost a half-second ahead of Rylov), but it was not enough. Rylov won in 1:47.88, barely holding off Murphy by two tenths. Murphy touched in 1:48.12, while London Roar’s Christian Diener placed third in 1:48.75.

Women’s 200 Breaststroke

In the Cali Condors’ final playoff match, Lilly King swam an experimental strategy and ended up finishing behind teammate Emily Escobedo in the 200 breaststroke, but King was back on top in a wire-to-wire triumph. A lead of three tenths with 50 meters to go ballooned to almost a full second as King turned on the jets. She touched in 2:17.06, off her league record of 2:15.56 and even her season-best time of 2:16.47, but it was enough for big points for the Condors.

Cali got another boost as Escobedo placed second in 2:18.00, securing big points for Energy (including King’s jackpot of two swimmers). London Roar’s Annie Lazor took third in 2:18.37, more than a second ahead of Energy Standard’s Evgeniia Chikunova (2:19.56).

Men’s 200 Breaststroke

Energy Standard’s Ilya Shymanovich has been the dominant swimmer this season in the men’s breaststroke events, but his main strength lies in the sprint events. In the 200-meter race, he was a bit vulnerable, and Cali Condors’ Nic Fink took advantage. Fink was a half-second behind with 50 meters to go, but he closed in 31.00 to sneak his fingers onto the wall three hundredths ahead of Shymanovich, 2:02.41 to 2:02.44. Fink just missed his own American record in the process, but he secure another big boost for Cali in the Condors’ attempt at defending their league title.

The rest of the field finished three seconds behind Shymanovich and Fink, and LA Current’s Christopher Rothbauer ended up third in 2:05.48.

Women’s 400 Freestyle Relay

With Siobhan Haughey leading off and Sarah Sjostrom anchoring, there was no way any other team would touch Energy Standard in the women’s 400 free relay. Haughey (51.06), Femke Heemskerk (51.88), Fanny Teijonsalo (53.08) and Sjostrom (51.85) combined to swim a time of 3:27.87, more thana second ahead of anyone else in the field.

London Roar’s team of Freya AndersonKim BuschMarie Wattel and Emma McKeon claimed second in 3:29.13, with McKeon vaulting the team past Cali Condors with her 51.02 anchor split. Cali’s Olivia SmoligaErika BrownBeata Nelson and Natalie Hinds took third in 3:29.17, with Hinds anchoring in a quick 51.88.

Energy Standard’s top team got a 30-point jackpot by stealing the points of three B-teams, but both of Cali’s relays managed to keep their points, and the Condors maintained a 22-point advantage at the first break.

Men’s 50 Freestyle

Energy Standard kept the momentum going as Ben Proud crushed the field in the men’s 50 free. He won the event by more than a half-second, an eternity in the 50 free, and touched in 20.40, just a quarter-second off Caeleb Dressel’s world record of 20.16. Proud beat his own British record of 20.64 set in the third playoff match two weeks ago. Proud jackpotted two swimmers for a 12-point jackpot win.

Kyle Chalmers finished second for the London Roar in 20.96, making him the only other swimmer to break 21, while Cali Condors’ Justin Ress finished in 21.00 for third. Dressel did not compete here for Cali after placing second in the 100 fly earlier in the day.

Women’s 50 Freestyle

Sarah Sjostrom has been knocking on the door of the 50 freestyle world record all season, with times of 23.08, 23.12 and 23.17 to consistently finish just off Ranomi Kromowidjojo’s 2017 world record of 22.93. Sjostrom did not have her best form for the final, but she was not far off. She recorded a time of 23.27 to beat the entire field by 0.56, an identical margin to Proud’s in the men’s splash-and-dash.

LA Current’s Abbey Weitzeil placed second in 23.83, five hundredths ahead of London Roar’s Emma McKeon (23.88). Cali’s Erika Brown touched fourth to beat out Energy’s Femke Heemskerk, and that helped Cali hold onto a slim, four-point lead over Energy despite Sjostrom’s 12-point jackpot.

Men’s 200 IM

London Roar picked up its first win of the match as Duncan Scott dominated the field in the men’s 200 IM. Scott’s teammate Vini Lanza was actually first after the butterfly leg, but from there, it was all Scott as the Olympic silver medalist led by a full second with 50 meters to go and then doubled the lead with his signature freestyle leg. Scott finished in 1:51.53, behind only Daiya Seto (1:51.12) and Andreas Vazaios (1:51.15) in the league rankings for this season.

LA Current went 2-3 in this race as Tomoe Hvas finished in 1:53.46 and Javier Acevedo touched in 1:53.80. Lanza ended up fourth in 1:54.02 to secure a 20-point race for London Roar, bringing third-place London within 10 points of second-place Energy Standard.

Women’s 200 IM

Just like in London’s previous two playoff matches, the Roar swept the men’s and women’s 200 IM with Scott and then Sydney Pickrem. Here, Pickrem was within a half-second of the lead at the halfway point before she vaulted into the lead with her usual brilliant breaststroke leg. Pickrem then held off a gritty performance from Energy Standard’s Mary-Sophie Harvey and a blazing final split from Cali Condors’ Beata Nelson.

Pickrem won in 2:05.79, two tenths ahead of Harvey in 2:06.01. Nelson, racing for the third time today after winning the 200 back and swimming on the Condors’ 400 freestyle relay, surged past LA Current’s Anastasia Gorbenko on the freestyle leg to finish third in 2:06.42. Gorbenko settled for fourth in 2:0614.

Men’s 50 Breaststroke

In Energy Standard’s final ISL playoff match, Energy Standard teammates Ilya Shymanovich and Felipe Lima went 1-2 in the men’s 50 breast, and in both races, the team ended up scoring 37 points and blanking all three other teams. Shymanovich also tied the 50 breast world record last month with a 25.25 at the European Short Course Championships. But in the ISL final, Cali Condors’ Nic Fink pulled off a stunner as he beat Shymanovich to the wall by nine hundredths — and broke his own American record in the process.

Fink finished in 25.72, three hundredths faster than the 25.75 he swam in last year’s ISL final. Shymanovich, meanwhile, finished in 25.81. This was the second time that Fink had beaten Shymanovich on the day after an earlier win in the 200 breast, but given Shymanovich’s speed and power, this win was much more surprising than Fink’s comeback victory over eight lengths previously.

Lima claimed third in 25.95, while the rest of the field was eight tenths back. Fink jackpotted four swimmers for a 19-point jackpot, taking many of the points that Energy Standard had counted on securing. That allowed Cali to maintain a 12-point lead over Energy.

Women’s 50 Breaststroke

London Roar’s Alia Atkinson holds the world record in the women’s 50 breast, but it was still an upset to see the 32-year-old from Jamaica take down Cali’s Lilly King. Atkinson swam a time of 29.15, well off her own world record of 28.56 but still three tenths ahead of King, who touched second in 29.15.

King barely held off Energy Standard’s Benedetta Pilato for third, with the Italian finishing in 29.56. Pilato is just 16 years old, half the age of Atkinson. Just missing out on the top-three were LA Current’s Imogen Clark (29.59) and Cali’s Molly Hannis (29.63).

Men’s 400 Freestyle Relay

London Roar had been the dominant team in the men’s 400 free relay this season with Kyle Chalmers and Duncan Scott leading the way, and indeed, Chalmers opened up a lead with his 45.80 leadoff leg. London still led by seven tenths with 50 meters to go after Katsumi Nakamura split 46.27 on the third leg, but Cali Condors anchor Justin Ress refused to give up. Ress split a blistering 45.43 on the final leg compared to a 46.15 from Dylan Carter, and Cali finished two hundredths ahead of London, 3:04.82 to 3:04.84.

Cali’s team consisted of Kacper Majchrzak (46.69), Caeleb Dressel (45.99), Jesse Puts (45.71) and Ress, while Chalmers, Scott, Nakamura and Carter swam for London. The final three points in the field were jackpotted, so that gave Cali 30 points compared to just 12 for London as those two hundredths represented a 36-point swing in the standings. So even though Cali head coach Jeff Julian calls day one a weaker day for his team, the Condors are currently 24 points up on Energy Standard.

LA Current’s team of Maxime RooneyBrett PinfoldApostolos Christou and Kristian Gkolomeev placed third in 3:07.85, beating Energy Standard’s top team by eight hundredths, but Energy finished 4-5 to earn 18 points, more than any other team except the victorious Condors.

Women’s 50 Backstroke

An incredibly tight 50 backstroke saw the top six swimmers separated by just three tenths. In a blanket finish, it was LA Current’s Ingrid Wilm picking up the victory in 26.24, four hundredths ahead of Energy Standard’s Anastasiya Skurdai in 26.28. Third place went to Cali’s Maaike de Waard in 26.31. Just behind were Energy Standard’s Simona Kubova (26.38), London’s Minna Atherton (26.45) and Olivia Smoliga (26.53).

LA and Energy each ended up with 12 points, and Cali scored nine and London four. This was expected to be a big event for London with world-record holder Kira Toussaint leading the way, but Toussaint was not in the lineup. The official ISL broadcast said that Toussaint was feeling “under the weather,” but her illness was not COVID-related. In Toussaint’s place, London inserted sprint star Emma McKeon into the lineup for this event, but the move backfired was McKeon was eighth and had her points jackpotted.

Men’s 50 Backstroke

After Evgeny Rylov edged out Ryan Murphy to win the men’s 200 backstroke earlier in the match, Murphy came back to edge out his Russian rival in the 50-meter event. Murphy used his signature start to get out ahead, but it came down to the finish. Murphy, of the LA Current, came in at 22.56, three hundredths ahead of Energy Standard’s Rylov in 22.59. Murphy missed his own ISL and American record of 22.53 by just three hundredths.

Cali Condors’ Coleman Stewart, the world-record holder in the 100 back, took third in 22.98, followed by the London duo of Christian Diener (23.06) and Guilherme Guido (23.20).

Women’s 400 Freestyle

Energy Standard’s Siobhan Haughey won the 400 free six times over the course of the regular season and playoffs, and she had not been beaten since the very first match of the ISL season. And despite huge efforts from London’s Freya Anderson and Cali’s Hali Flickinger, Haughey pulled off the victory. Haughey held the lead through 250 meters before Anderson pulled ahead at the final two intermediate splits. But Haughey had one more push to get back in front, and she held off a huge final surge from Flickinger at the finish.

Haughey came in at 3:58.80, while Flickinger swam her best time to take second in 3:58.91, 0.11 behind the winner. Anderson could not hang with Haughey and Flickinger on the last two lengths, but she still secured third place in 3:59.96, with the remaining swimmers all at least five seconds behind.

Men’s 400 Freestyle

London Roar’s Duncan Scott was favored to win the men’s 400 free in the ISL final and he held the lead by almost a second-and-a-half after 200 meters, but Scott fell off the pace after that, and teammate Tom Dean took over the lead after 300 meters. Dean then got a late push from Cali Condors’ Duncan Scott, but he held on to secure victory in 3:40.67. The winning time was slower than in any of the last four playoff matches, but as with several other events on this day, the racing did not match the times on paper.

Haas, who has had a difficult season but seems to be peaking at the right time, finished second in 3:40.82, while Energy Standard’s Kregor Zirk finished strong to take third in 3:41.69. Cali’s Eddie Wang took fourth in 3:42.82, while Scott faded all the way to fifth in 3:43.82, more than four seconds off his season-best time.

Heading into the final relays of the day, Cali is clinging to an 11-point lead over Energy Standard.

Women’s 400 Medley Relay

The Cali Condors set the world record in the women’s 400 medley relay (for the United States) in last year’s ISL final, and the group of Beata NelsonLilly KingKelsi Dahlia and Erika Brown dominated the field by almost a second-and-a-half, finishing in 3:46.79. But Cali was then disqualified as a result of an illegal turn from King at the 75-meter mark. Video of the swim did not conclusively show whether King committed a violation.

Instead, it was the Energy Standard team of Mary-Sophie Harvey (56.97), Evgeniia Chikunova (1:04.67), Anastasiya Shkurdai (55.36) and Sarah Sjostrom (51.11) finished in 3:48.11 to beat London by 0.34, claiming a 30-point jackpot victory. London had to swim without star backstroker Kira Toussaint, so the team of Minna AthertonAlia AtkinsonMarie Wattel and Emma McKeon combined to swim a time of 3:48.45. McKeon closed in a blistering 51.17.

Cali’s B-team (Olivia SmoligaMolly HannisKatarine Savard and Natalie Hinds) ended up third in 3:49.47, but combined with a four-point deduction for the A-team’s disqualification, Cali ended up with just eight points for the race, a fraction of the enormous jackpot the Condors would have collected had their top team not been DQed. Meanwhile, Energy Standard scored 38 to shockingly blast ahead of Cali by 23 points.

The win gave Energy Standard the final choice for women’s skins, and coach Tom Rushton selected backstroke.

Men’s 400 Medley Relay

In a tight showdown between the Cali Condors and Energy Standard in the men’s 400 medley relay, the Condors emerged in front. The team of Coleman Stewart (49.62), Nic Fink (55.21), Caeleb Dressel (49.01) and Justin Ress (45.80) combined to swim a time of 3:19.64, about a second ahead of the Energy team. Kliment Kolesnikov (49.90), Ilya Shymanovich (55.38), Chad le Clos (48.92) and Adam Barrett (46.41) combined to finish at 3:20.61.

That Cali team consisted of four American swimmers, and they actually broke the American record in the event. Previously, the group of Ryan MurphyAndrew Wilson, Dressel and Ryan Held swam a time of 3:19.98 at the 2018 Short Course World Championships. Russia owns the world record at 3:19.16 from 2019.

Fink has been one of the most valuable swimmers of the meet so far, with two upset wins over Shymanovich in the 200 breast and 50 breast, and he again out-split the Energy Standard on the relay. Then, Ress provided his second clutch relay anchor of the day to bring the squad home. Notably, Energy Standard’s B-team got a 48.98 leadoff split from Evgeny Rylov, but replacing Kolesnikov’s leadoff leg with Rylov’s would still have left Energy barely behind Cali.

Cali secured a 24-point jackpot with the win, but Energy ended up with 22 points thanks to a 2-5 finish here. That advantage of just two points left Energy Standard 21 points ahead of Cali heading into the second and final day of the match.

London Roar placed third with Guilherme GuidoRoss MurdochVini Lanza and Kyle Chalmers. Chalmers anchored in 45.78 on the way to a final time of 3:23.51.

Following the match, Cali picked butterfly skins for men as the concluding event of the meet.

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