ISL Playoff Match 4, Day 1: London Roar(s) Into First Place Thanks to Chalmers, Scott, Pickrem and Toussaint

CHALMERS Kyle LON London Roar (LON) ISL International Swimming League 2021 Match 9 day 2 Piscina Felice Scandone Napoli, Naples Photo Giorgio Scala / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto
London Roar's Kyle Chalmers -- Photo Courtesy: Giorgio Scala / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

ISL Playoff Match 4, Day 1: London Roar(s) Into First Place Thanks to Chalmers, Scott, Pickrem and Toussaint

The Cali Condors, last season’s ISL champions, have close to a full squad present for the first time this season, with Caeleb Dressel returning for his first playoff match and Hali Flickinger making her season debut. The Condors opened up an early lead as Kelsi Dahlia set an ISL record in the 100 butterfly, and Beata Nelson and Lilly King also won their first races. But then, during the second portion of the meet, the London Roar came on strong and took over the lead.

Kyle Chalmers (men’s 50 freestyle), Duncan Scott (men’s 200 IM and 400 freestyle), Sydney Pickrem (women’s 200 IM) and Kira Toussaint (women’s 50 backstroke) all won individual victories for London, and the Roar also picked up two relay wins. Chalmers keyed a dominant performance in the men’s 400 freestyle relay, and the team of Toussaint, Alia AtkinsonMarie Wattel and Emma McKeon upset the world-record-holders from the Cali Condors in the women’s 400 medley relay. Both of those triumphs were jackpots of at least 30 points. All that has given London a 49.5-point lead over Cali with one day of racing down and another still to come.

Meanwhile, LA Current also looked strong in this match after a surprise victory over London in last weekend’s second playoff match. LA was in second place behind London and ahead of Cali for a stretch of the match, and the Current sit just 10 points behind Cali heading into day two.

Team Scores Through Day One:

  1. London Roar 287.5
  2. Cali Condors 238
  3. LA Current 228
  4. Team Iron 156.5

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Women’s 100 Butterfly

Cali Condors’ Kelsi Dahlia got off to a huge start in the first event of the day as she destroyed the field in the women’s 100 fly. Dahlia went out under world-record pace in 25.68 — already opening up a half-second lead over London Roar’s Emma McKeon — and she flew home to a 54.89. That crushed her own league record of 55.22 set during the regular season in Naples, and she was only five hundredths off her 2018 American record of 54.84. Sarah Sjostrom is the only swimmer to ever go faster with her world record of 54.61.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve been under (54),” Dahlia said in an on-deck post-race interview. “I wanted to get off with a bang for our team tonight. I’m really pleased with the points.”

McKeon, meanwhile, finished more than a second behind in 56.00 to claim second-place points, while Cali Condors’ Erika Brown placed third in 56.13. LA Current’s Anna Ntountounaki took fourth, and the last four swimmers in the field had their points stolen in Dahlia’s huge jackpot win, which earned her 19 points.

Men’s 100 Butterfly

With Caeleb Dressel sitting out the 100 fly, LA Current’s Tom Shields dominated the event for his fourth win of the season in the event. Nicholas Santos actually held a slight lead at the 50-meter mark, but Shields quickly established himself ahead of the field and won by more than a second. He put up a 49.36, while he ranks third all-time in the event at 48.47, behind only Dressel and Chad le Clos.

London’s Vini Lanza took second in 50.06, while Santos ended up third for Team Iron in 50.21.

Women’s 200 Backstroke

The Cali Condors’ Beata Nelson picked up her fifth 200 backstroke win of the season as she led wire-to-wire against a strong field. She went three-for-four during the regular season, including posting a league-leading 2:00.55 during her Match #7 victory, and she won in the first playoff match. This time, Nelson was getting a challenge from London’s Kira Toussaint with 50 meters to go before pulling away to win in 2:00.91, which is off her season best but faster than any other swimmer so far this ISL season.

Meanwhile, Kathleen Baker has had a rough season after dealing with an ankle injury during the summer, but she swam a strong 200 back here and managed to finish strong for second place for the LA Current, her time a 2:01.77. Toussaint ended up third in 2:03.30. LA Current’s Ingrid Wilm, the winner in Match #8, took fourth, while Cali’s Hali Flickinger finished fifth in her first race of the ISL season.

Men’s 200 Backstroke

In his season debut last week, LA Current’s Ryan Murphy recorded the top time of the ISL season in the 200 back at 1:48.43 on his way to a backstroke sweep, but in this race, Murphy could not keep pace with London’s Christian Diener. Diener led by eight tenths at the 150-meter mark, and while Murphy tried to make a charge, his 27.07 final split could not make up the difference. Diener won in 1:49.04, barely holding off Murphy (1:49.34).

Another London swimmer, Olympic bronze medalist Luke Greenbank, placed third in 1:51.18, just 0.03 ahead of Team Iron’s Lorenzo Mora (1:51.21).

Women’s 200 Breaststroke

Lilly King is undefeated in the 200 breaststroke this season for the Condors as her team won its third straight women’s race to begin the match. King led by more than a second after just 50 meters of racing, and no one could close the gap. Fellow Americans Annie Lazor and Emily Escobedo slightly out-split her on the third 50, but otherwise, no one had a single split close to King. King ended up finishing in 2:16.47, less than a second off her own ISL record of 2:15.56. The time was the fastest this ISL season, a few tenths ahead of King’s previous best (2:16.83).

London’s Lazor, the Olympic bronze medalist behind King’s silver medal performance, placed second in 2:18.82, and Cali’s Escobedo took third in 2:19.42. London’s Sydney Pickrem finished fourth in 2:20.07.

Men’s 200 Breaststroke

Team Iron won its first race of the day as Erik Persson clobbered the field in the men’s 200 breast by more than two seconds. Persson, a finalist in the 200 breast at the Tokyo Olympics, took over the lead at the halfway point and then swam away from his competition. He swam a time of 2:02.41 for his sixth win of the season in the event after going undefeated during the regular season.

Behind Persson, Cali’s Nic Fink moved up from seventh place at the 100-meter mark and closed in 31.57 to take second in 2:04.47, while LA Current’s Christopher Rothbauer placed third in 2:05.55.

Women’s 400 Freestyle Relay

After a three-team battle between the Cali Condors, London Roar and LA Current, it was the Current who grabbed the top spot on the second leg and held on to finish first. The team of Abbey Weitzeil (51.99), Madison Wilson (51.79), Anastasia Gorbenko (51.85) and Beryl Gastadello (51.81) combined to swim a 3:27.44, one second ahead of Cali’s team of Natalie HindsErika BrownKelsi Dahlia and Olivia Smoliga (3:28.43). Smoliga anchored in 51.54, but she could not run down Gastadello.

London’s team of Emma McKeon, Marie WattelFreya Anderson and Kira Toussaint took third in 3:29.50, and McKeon posted the fastest leadoff split with her 51.61. The Current picked up a 30-point jackpot, with the final three relay squads losing their points.

Men’s 50 Freestyle

This one saw Caeleb Dressel and Kyle Chalmers facing off for the first time since Dressel held off Chalmers to win Olympic gold in the 100 freestyle by six hundredths. Dressel is considered better in the splash-and-dash while the event is slightly short for Chalmers, but here, the Australian got the better of his American rival. Chalmers, representing London Roar, hit the wall in 20.97 to get the better of a very tight field.

In a blanket finish, LA Current’s Kristian Gkolomeev took second in 21.00, and Dressel was third in 21.04. Dressel holds the world record at 20.16 from last season’s ISL final, and he has the top time in the league this year at 20.67.

“I have my biggest competititor in the world back here, so it’s nice to get one on him,” Chalmers said. “As soon as I found out (that Dressel was in attendance), I put the caffeine tablets down my throat and swam a bit better tonight.

Finishing just behind were Iron’s Maxim Lobanovszkij (21.08), LA Current’s Dylan Carter (21.09) and Iron’s Thom de Boer (21.09).

Women’s 50 Freestyle

In another extraordinarily tight finish, LA Current’s Abbey Weitzeil got her fingers on the wall in 23.90, a mere one hundredth faster than the second-place tie between London’s Emma McKeon and Iron’s Ranomi Kromowidjojo in 23.90. The co-second-place finishers are both Olympic gold medalists in the 50 free, with Kromowidjojo winning gold at the 2012 Games before McKeon was this year’s champion.

Cali’s Erika Brown (24.02) and Iron’s Melanie Henique (24.03) finished just behind the top three finishers.

Men’s 200 IM

London Roar’s Duncan Scott was completely dominant in the 200 IM. The Olympic silver medalist in the long course version of the event quickly pulled away from the field. He came in at 1:52.35, almost two seconds ahead of the field. Scott’s win was his third 200 IM triumph of the season, and he looks like the strongest swimmer in the event among those teams with a chance of advancing to the final.

Meanwhile, London got a huge rush of points here as Scott’s teammate Vini Lanza tied for second with Iron’s Leonardo Santos. Both men put up times of 1:54.14.

Women’s 200 IM

When Sydney Pickrem was close to the field at the halfway point of the 200 IM, the race was effectively over as Pickrem is far superior to any of her competitors on the breaststroke leg. Indeed, Pickrem was third after the backstroke leg before splitting more than a second-and-a-half faster than the field on the third 50. Then, she held off a late charge from Cali Condors’ Beata Nelson. Pickrem swam a time of 2:05.29, while Nelson placed second in 2:06.46.

Iron’s Maria Ugolkova placed third in 2:07.02, while LA Current’s Anastasia Gorbenko, who is the third-fastest swimmer in the league this season, finished a surprising fourth in 2:09.20. Gorbenko had raced in the 400 free relay just minutes earlier.

London’s two-race winning streak moved the Roar into second place ahead of the Current, only 5.5 points behind the Condors.

Men’s 50 Breaststroke

Team Iron’s Bernhard Reitshammer picked up a big win in the sprint breaststroke race as he beat Cali’s Nic Fink by a quarter of a second. Reitshammer swam a time of 26.10, while Fink placed second in 26.35. LA Current’s Christopher Rothbauer claimed third place in 26.67.

Women’s 50 Breaststroke

Cali Condors needed to half some of London’s momentum, and that happened when Lilly King edged out London’s Alia Atkinson, the world-record holder. King finished in 29.36 to Atkinson’s 29.54. Iron’s Ida Hulkko finished third in 29.84, two hundredths ahead of LA Current’s Imogen Clark. Clark was the winner during the second playoff match last week.

Men’s 400 Freestyle Relay

London Roar’s huge turnaround is complete. After trailing well behind both Cali and LA heading into the start of the section portion of the meet (following the women’s relay), LA has now moved into the lead. The individual wins by Kyle ChalmersDuncan Scott and Sydney Pickrem fueled the surge, and then Chalmers spearheaded an enormous 38-point jackpot win where each team’s B-relay gave up its points.

Chalmers led off in 45.53, short of his new 100 free world record of 44.84 but by far the fastest split in the field, and he was followed by Katsumi Nakamura (46.63), Zac Incerti (46.49) and Dylan Carter (45.90). LA’s Apostolos Christou split 45.98 on the second leg, and Cali’s Justin Ress was 46.25 on the third leg, but neither squad could make much of a dent into the lead, and London ended up winning in 3:04.55.

LA finished second in 3:06.15, and Cali was two seconds further back at 3:08.19. Caeleb Dressel anchored for the Condors, but the American superstar has struggled in this match so far, and he was just 47.26 on the anchor leg.

Women’s 50 Backstroke

London Roar opened up the meet’s home stretch with a win in the women’s 50 back behind Kira Toussaint. Toussaint won by more than three tenths, basically an eternity in a 50-meter race. Toussaint, the world-record holder in the event at 25.60 (set twice last year), put up a time of 25.99. The only quicker swim this season came one week ago, when Toussaint was clocked at 25.91.

LA Current’s Ingrid Wilm finished second in 26.31, one hundredth ahead of Cali’s Olivia Smoliga (26.32), while LA’s Kathleen Baker was just two hundredths further back (26.34).

Men’s 50 Backstroke

Ryan Murphy dealt with a rare defeat in the 200 back earlier in the day, but he didn’t leave any room for his competitors in the down-and-back backstroke race. Murphy blasted a 22.63 to take the win, less than a tenth off his own league record of 22.54 from last season. Meanwhile, London’s Christian Diener followed up his win in the 200 back with a runnerup finish here in 22.84, and his teammate Guilherme Guido took third in 22.93. Guido actually owns the top time in the league this season in 22.60, which he has recorded twice.

Meanwhile, Cali’s Coleman Stewart finished a disappointing fifth in 23.24, nowhere close to his season-best time of 22.61. The final three swimmers in the head were jackpotted, and that gave Murphy 15 total points, enough to move LA three points past the Condors into second place. We’ll see what the reigning-league-champion Condors have left since they now trail two different teams.

Women’s 400 Freestyle

London’s Freya Anderson went out hard and grabbed the early lead, claiming top marks at the 100-meter checkpoint, but Cali Condors’ Hali Flickinger recorded consistent splits throughout as she clawed her way back into the race. She was still two tenths behind Anderson with 50 meters to go, but then Flickinger closed in 28.55 to get into the finish a mere three hundredths ahead of Anderson, 4:00.82 to 4:00.85. Only three swimmers have swum faster this season: Energy Standard’s Siobhan Haughey, Toronto’s Summer McIntosh and DC’s Joanna Evans.

Interestingly, Anderson ended up with 13 points compared to Flickinger’s nine thanks to the 100-meter checkpoint, extending London’s lead. LA Current’s Valentine Dumont claimed third in 4:03.52.

Men’s 400 Freestyle

London Roar’s Duncan Scott annihilated the field in the 400 free for his second win of the day following his earlier triumph in the 200 IM. Scott has been known mostly for his skills in the shorter freestyle and 200 IM, but he has extended his range to 400 meters this season. Here, he won by almost three seconds in 3:39.20, the fastest time of any ISL swimmer remaining in the playoffs. Brendon Smith has been as quick as 3:37.11, but his New York Breakers were eliminated before the postseason.

LA Current’s Fernando Scheffer placed second in 3:42.02, while Cali Condors picked up a 3-4 finish with Eddie Wang (3:42.20) and Townley Haas (3:42.63) to minimize the damage, even as London has extended the lead.

Women’s 400 Medley Relay

In last season’s ISL final, the Cali Condors’ foursome of Beata NelsonLilly KingKelsi Dahlia and Erika Brown set a world record for the United States in the women’s 400 medley relay. But in this match, that same foursome could not keep pace with the London Roar. London’s team of Kira Toussaint (56.28), Alia Atkinson (1:03.53), Marie Wattel (55.80) and Emma McKeon (50.67) won the race in 3:46.28. McKeon’s sizzling anchor split pulled her team ahead of Cali, but London actually out-split the competition on every stroke except butterfly (including Atkinson beating King by 0.06).

Cali placed second in 3:47.44, and London’s 30-point jackpot win gave the Roar the honor of picking the stroke for women’s skins. Meanwhile, the LA Current team of Ingrid Wilm, Anastasia Gorbenko, Anna Ntountounaki and Abbey Weitzeil placed third in 3:49.26.

Following the win, London picked backstroke for women’s skins to end this match, which will give Toussaint a chance in the event where she holds the world record.

Men’s 400 Medley Relay

After a rough day for the 2020 league-champion Cali Condors, Cali picked up a big win in the men’s 400 medley relay, but London Roar actually outscored Cali with a 2-4 finish. London, then, got the opportunity to have the final pick of stroke for the men’s skins in addition to the women’s.

As for the race itself, Cali’s Coleman Stewart (50.47), Nic Fink (56.58), Caeleb Dressel (49.60) and Justin Ress (45.79) won in 3:22.44, eight tenths ahead of London’s team of Guilherme GuidoSam WilliamsonKyle Chalmers and Dylan Carter in 3:23.23. Chalmers switched from his usual anchor leg to butterfly, giving him another head-to-head race against Dressel, and this time Dressel split four tenths quicker than Chalmers’ 50.03.

LA Current was just a tenth behind London in third (3:23.33) with Ryan MurphyJavier AcevedoTom Shields and Brett Pinfold. Shields split a monstrous 48.83 on the fly leg to put his team in the mix.

Following the session, London selected backstroke skins for the men on Sunday, where Guido and Christian Diener will likely lead the way against the likes of Murphy.

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