ISL Male Swimmer of the Year: Ilya Shymanovich Raced to 16 Breaststroke Wins, Two World Records

SHYMANOVICH Ilya ENS Energy Standard (ENS) ISL International Swimming League 2021 Match 8 day 2 Piscina Felice Scandone Napoli, Naples Photo Giorgio Scala / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto
Ilya Shymanovich -- Photo Courtesy: Giorgio Scala / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

ISL Male Swimmer of the Year: Ilya Shymanovich Raced to 16 Breaststroke Wins, Two World Records

During the 2020 ISL season, Ilya Shymanovich captured six breaststroke victories, although he was somewhat overshadowed by superstar Adam Peaty in his best events. But in 2021, Shymanovich took advantage of Peaty’s absence to become the premier performer in his events for the duration of the season.

Shymanovich entered the ISL campaign coming off his best-ever long course season, when he represented Belarus in his first Olympic final in the 100 breaststroke, and then he won 16 individual races over the course of the season and also provided a huge medley relay boost for his Energy Standard teammates. Shymanovich did not perform at his best during the ISL final, but he ended the season as the top-scoring male swimmer in the league and the third-highest-scoring individual as Energy reclaimed the league title.

Shymanovich won the 50 breaststroke five times over the course of the season, and he recorded the league’s fastest time of the year with a 25.41. He actually tied the existing world record in the event at 25.25, but that happened during the European Short Course Championships the week before the ISL playoffs began.

In the 100 breast, Shymanovich won on six occasions. In the second and third playoff matches, Shymanovich lowered the world record in the event. Shymanovich owned the world record already at 55.34 before he swam a time of 55.32. A week later, he was even quicker with a 55.28.

Shymanovich was so dominant in the sprint events that he jackpotted six of his seven competitors on multiple occasions. Whenever Aqua Centurions and Cali Condors were not in the match, Shymanovich and teammate Felipe Lima could finish 1-2 and score 37 points for Energy Standard, compared to zero for all other teams. There was a bit of controversy surrounding Shymanovich as some questioned the legality of his narrow breaststroke kick, but he was never disqualified.

And while Shymanovich is certainly best in the sprint breaststroke events, he was pretty brilliant this year in the 200 breast as well. He recorded five wins in that event, and his 2:02.06 was the league’s fastest time all year.

However, the ISL Grand Final did not go as planned for Shymanovich as Cali’s Nic Fink edged him out in all three breaststroke events. Fink beat Shymanovich by three hundredths in the 200 breast, nine hundredths in the 50 breast and then three hundredths again in the 100 breast. Even though Shymanovich could not pick up any individual wins, he missed a sweep of his events by a combined three hundredths. But one off performance does not define a season, and looking at the season as a whole, Shymanovich was certainly the top male swimmer.

The 27-year-old concluded the year by claiming a gold medal in the 100 breaststroke at the Short Course World Championships, his first-ever international gold medal. Shymanovich might have an unconventional stroke, but he utilizes his incredible upper-body strength to great effect in short course breaststroke. And while he did not swim his best at the biggest meets this season, his consistently-quick efforts provided a huge boost to Energy Standard. We’ll see if Shymanovich can translate that short course success to the long course pool, but he has at the very least established himself as elite in the 25-meter format.

ISL Season MVP Standings

1. Sarah Sjostrom, Energy Standard, 511.5
2. Siobhan Haughey, Energy Standard, 468
3. Ilya Shymanovich, Energy Standard, 403.5