ISL Playoff Match 4: Led by Duncan Scott and Kyle Chalmers, London Roar Beat Cali Condors

SCOTT Duncan LON London Roar (LON) ISL International Swimming League 2021 Match 9 day 2 Piscina Felice Scandone Napoli, Naples Photo Giorgio Scala / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto
Photo Courtesy: Giorgio Scala / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

ISL Playoff Match 4: Led by Duncan Scott and Kyle Chalmers, London Roar Beat Cali Condors

Four of the six matches of the ISL playoff round are complete, and in a surprising twist, there have been four different match winners so far. Cali Condors edged Energy Standard in the first match before LA Current used an incredible comeback to take down London Roar in the second. Earlier this week, Energy cruised in the third match, and here, London used an all-around dominant performance to defeat the defending champion Condors for the second occasion this season.

After day one, London led by 49.5 points, but Cali steadily closed the gap through the middle portion of day two, with Hali FlickingerCaeleb DresselLilly King and Nic Fink among those claiming individual victories before Cali picked up a big win in the mixed 400 medley relay. At one point, the lead was down to just 17 points, but London asserted itself with Sydney Pickrem (women’s 400 IM), Duncan Scott (men’s 400 IM) and Minna Atherton (women’s backstroke skins) winning three straight events for the Roar.

Also for London, Olympic star Emma McKeon earned one individual victory on day two, and Kyle Chalmers had first-place results in both the 100 free and 200 free. Scott won MVP honors after he added the 400 IM and a runnerup finish in the 100 IM to his two wins from Saturday (200 IM and 400 free), while LA Current’s Ryan Murphy took second in the MVP scoring after he won the 100 back and backstroke skins on the men’s side on Sunday.

Final Team Scores:

  1. London Roar 534.5
  2. Cali Condors 474.5
  3. LA Current 438.5
  4. Team Iron 324.5

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Women’s 100 Freestyle

Following a huge finish to day one, the London Roar got another win as the meet resumed Sunday. LA Current’s Abbey Weitzeil had touched out London’s Emma McKeon and Iron’s Ranomi Kromowidjojo by one hundredth to win the 50 free Saturday, and she had an early lead in the 100 free final. However, McKeon surged down the stretch, and the seven-time medalist from the Tokyo Olympics came in at 51.51, two tenths ahead of Weitzeil. McKeon has been as quick as 50.58 last month, but she got the big points for a win here.

“That’s kind of my aim for each night, to kind of start the team off with a bang. I’m happy to get the win, but I’m starting to get a bit tired. I’m not even focusing on the time, just trying to get my hand on the wall first,” McKeon said in an on-deck interview after the race. “Swimming is usually so individual, so to come here and be a part of this team and have them get behind you, that’s what keps me motivated.”

Weitzeil touched in a strong 51.74 to place second, while Kromowidjojo picked up third in 51.81. Just behind were LA Current’s Madison Wilson (52.04) and Cali Condors’ Erika Brown (52.27).

Men’s 100 Freestyle

Following McKeon’s win in the women’s event, London picked up another victory in men’s 100 free. World-record holder Kyle Chalmers was the big favorite here, and that status was enhanced when Olympic gold medalist Caeleb Dressel did not compete in the event. Indeed, Chalmers touched the wall in 45.70, almost a second off his record of 44.84, but he was almost a second ahead of the field.

Finishing behind the 23-year-old Australian was LA Current’s Maxime Rooney, who touched in 46.63 to beat LA Current’s Dylan Carter (46.64) by one hundredth.

Women’s 200 Butterfly

In her ISL season debut Saturday, Cali Condors’ Hali Flickinger swam three races and picked up a come-from-behind win in the 400 free. Competing in her signature 200 fly, she again came from off the lead to steal the victory. Flickinger was a half-second off the lead of Iron’s Alys Thomas at the halfway point, and then she was two hundredths back at the 150, but she closed in 32.09, almost a second quicker than anyone else on that split, and she ended up winning by almost a second and a half.

Flickinger won in 2:04.62, which ranks her third in the ISL this season behind Svetlana Chimrova of the eliminated New York Breakers (2:03.76) and Cali teammate Kelsi Dahlia (2:03.95). Thomas settled for second in 2:06.11, while London’s Ilaria Bianchi placed third in 2:06.58.

Men’s 200 Butterfly

Cali Condors completed a sweep of the 200 butterfly events when 19-year-old Eddie Wang, a native of Chinese Taipei, overtook LA Current’s Tom Shields over the second half of the race. He held a lead of three hundredths with 50 meters to go before extending the lead to almost a second over the final two lengths. Wang touched in 1:50.83 to earn his second win of the season in the event following his triumph in the first playoff match last week. Wang now owns the third-fastest time of the ISL season behind Daiya Seto (1:49.41) and Shields (1:50.24).

Shields ended up second this time in 1:51.75, and London’s Teppei Morimoto finished strong to take third in 1:52.04.

Women’s 100 Backstroke

London Roar’s Kira Toussaint, the world-record holder in the 50 back, was absolutely dominant in the 100-meter distance here. She held the lead halfway through and then beat everyone in the field by more than a half-second on the second 50. Toussaint touched in 55.45, surpassing LA Current’s Ingrid Wilm (55.61) as the fastest swimmer so far this ISL season. Wilm ended up taking second here in 56.21, and world-record holder Minna Atherton, also of London, was third in 56.52.

The Cali Condors’ Olivia Smoliga (56.62) and LA Current’s Kathleen Baker (56.77) took fourth and fifth, respectively.

Men’s 100 Backstroke

London Roar’s Guilherme Guido was ahead of the field at the start and looked to be slightly ahead even through 75 meters, but he faded badly down the stretch as LA Current’s Ryan Murphy, the 2016 Olympic gold medalist in the event, took over and crushed the field over the final 25 meters. Murphy touched in 49.51, just 0.02 off his winning time from the first playoff match last week, while 200 back winner Christian Diener placed second for the London Roar in 50.13.

The LA Current took 1-3 in this event as Apostolos Christou finished in 50.16, just ahead of world-record holder Coleman Stewart (50.18). Interestingly, Guido faded all the way back to fifth, his time 50.27 almost a second off his 49.29 leadoff leg from the 400 medley relay on Saturday.

Women’s 100 IM

It has been a challenging season for LA Current’s Beryl Gastadello, who had not picked up any individual ISL wins this season following a very impressive 2020 campaign. But Gastadello broke through here, surging on the back half of the 100 IM to finish in 57.87. That time beat out Cali Condors’ Beata Nelson by three tenths and also became the fastest time so far this ISL season. Gastadello smashed the water after the race in celebration of finally breaking through.

Nelson took second in 58.21, just two hundredths ahead of LA’s Anastasia Gorbenko (58.23). The 1-3 finish for LA pushed the Current in front of Cali for second place, while London is maintaining its big lead.

Men’s 100 IM

Caeleb Dressel is only competing in one individual event (plus one relay) on Sunday after only racing once individually in his Eindhoven debut Saturday. But after falling to third in the 50 free, he captured his first playoff win in the 100 IM. Dressel trailed Iron’s Marco Orsi for most of the race, even through the breaststroke, but he surged home on the freestyle, his powerful strokes vaulting him ahead of the field.

Dressel touched in 51.67, nowhere close to his world record of 49.28 or his season-best time of 50.68 from back in Naples in September but good enough for the nine-point award here. Taking second was London’s Duncan Scott, who won the 200 IM and 400 free Saturday. Scott came in at 51.82, while LA’s Brett Pinfold got past Orsi for third, 52.14 to 52.26.

Women’s 100 Breaststroke

In an anticipated showdown against co-world-record holder Alia Atkinson, Cali Condors’ Lilly King remained undefeated this season in the 100 breast. King blasted out ahead of the field, her halfway split of 29.56 placing her almost nine tenths ahead of the field, and she barely surrendered any ground on the last heat. King finished in 1:03.35, surpassing her previous top-ranked time this season of 1:03.53.

Atkinson came on strong but ended up second in 1:04.11. Third went to LA Current’s Kotryna Teterevkova in 1:05.02, while Cali’s Emily Escobedo edged out London’s Annie Lazor for fourth, 1:05.11 to 1:05.16.

Men’s 100 Breaststroke

Iron’s Bernhard Reitshammer had the early lead in this one after winning the 50 breast Saturday, but Cali Condors’ Nic Fink ran him down and pulled ahead, giving Cali its third straight victory in its comeback attempt. Fink won in 56.51. Only two other competitors in the ISL playoffs, world-record holder Ilya Shymanovich and Olympic silver medalist Arno Kamminga, have been quicker this season.

Reitshammer placed second in 56.80, and there was a tie for third between LA’s Christopher Rothbauer and Cali’s Kevin Cordes in 58.11. Cali’s 1-3 finish put the Condors back into second place, but London still holds a 43-point advantage.

Women’s 50 Butterfly

In a tight duel, Iron’s Ranomi Kromowidjojo held off Cali’s Kelsi Dahlia by nine hundredths to capture the first win of the day for Iron. Kromowidjojo won the 50 fly for the fifth time this season as she touched in 24.77, just off Sarah Sjostrom’s 24.64 last week that ranks as tops in the ISL this season and not far off Kromowidjojo’s own league record of 24.59. Dahlia, meanwhile, took second in 24.86, just off the American record of 24.80 held by Maddy Banic.

Iron’s Melanie Henique finished third in 24.91 to secure a 1-3 finish for the squad, a huge boost for the group currently well back in fourth place.

Men’s 50 Butterfly

Nicholas Santos, the 41-year-old Brazilian representing Team Iron, crushed the field in the two-lap butterfly race, finishing in 21.98. Santos owns the world record of 21.75 from 2018, a mark that Szebasztian Szabo tied at the European Short Course Championship two weeks ago. Here, Santos won in 21.98, off that world record and also his own season-best mark of 21.81 from Naples.

Meanwhile, LA Current’s Tom Shields finished second (as he did in the 200 fly earlier) in 22.26, and Cali Condors’ Jose Martinez was another half-second back in third (22.72). But the other five swimmers in the field were all jackpotted, so Santos scored an enormous 24-point jackpot.

Despite the 50 fly surge, Iron remains in fourth place and 87 points away from third. However, Cali continues to close the gap on London, and the margin is only 27 points with just the 200 free, mixed 400 medley relay, 400 IM and skins to go.

Women’s 200 Freestyle

London’s Freya Anderson opened up a solid lead of three tenths at the halfway point, and she held tough as Iron’s Barbora Seemanova closed hard down the stretch in pursuit of a third-straight win for Iron. But Anderson held on for the victory here, touching in 1:53.17, while Seemanova finished six hundredths back in 1:53.23. The only swimmer close to those two was LA Current’s Madison Wilson, who claimed third in 1:53.70.

Men’s 200 Freestyle

Olympic bronze medalist Fernando Scheffer, representing the LA Current during this ISL season, opened up a lead over the middle 100 meters of this race, but London’s Kyle Chalmers exploded on the last 50 to pull ahead and take his second victory of the day. Chalmers closed in 25.67, eight tenths quicker than anyone else on the last 50, and he won in 1:41.68. The only swimmer to beat that time this season is Aleksandr Shchegolev (1:41.01) from the third playoff match Friday.

Scheffer settled for second here in 1:42.07, while it was another solid event for the LA Current as Maxime Rooney took third in 1:43.73, just ahead of Iron’s Mikhail Vekovishchev (1:43.79).

Mixed 400 Medley Relay

The Cali Condors did not win any of the relays on day one of this match, but they finally broke through in the mixed 400 medley relay. They deployed relay teams with two different strategies: one squad going man-man-woman-woman and the other beginning with two women and finishing with two men. It was the group leading off with male swimmers that emerged victorious. The team of Coleman Stewart (50.16), Nic Fink (56.86), Kelsi Dahlia (54.89) and Natalie Hinds (51.88) won with a time of 3:33.79, more than two seconds ahead of the runner-up squad.

LA Current’s Ryan MurphyImogen ClarkTom Shields and Abbey Weitzeil placed second in 3:35.90, followed by London’s group of Dylan CarterRoss MurdochMarie Wattel and Emma McKeon in 3:36.13. McKeon provided a huge 50.73 anchor split on the end of that relay.

The second Cali group of Beata NelsonLilly KingCaeleb Dressel and Justin Ress placed fifth in 3:37.18, again reinforcing that mixed medley relays utilizing a female breaststroker are at a huge disadvantage in terms of aggregate time.

Heading into the final four events, London’s lead is down to 20 points over Cali, 427.5 to 407.5.

Women’s 400 IM

The Cali Condors looked great after the backstroke leg, with Kathrin Demler turning first and Hali Flickinger in second to capture top points at the 200-meter checkpoint. Then, London’s Sydney Pickrem stormed ahead of the field, opening up a three-second lead after the breaststroke leg before holding off Flickinger’s stellar freestyle leg. Pickrem won in 4:30.76, one second ahead of Flickinger (4:31.75).

London ended up finishing 1-3 here as Katie Shanahan grabbed third in 4:34.75. Demler was fourth in 4:35.35, but Cali ended up out-scoring London by three points in this event thanks to the 200-meter checkpoint. That brought Cali to within 17 points of the lead.

Men’s 400 IM

London’s Duncan Scott was totally dominant in the final individual event of the match, taking top honors at the 200-meter checkpoint and then winning the race by almost seven seconds. Scott touched in 4:00.37, and he jackpotted the last three swimmers in the field. Altogether, Scott ended up with 22 points.

Cali Condors’ Brodie Williams placed second in 4:07.31, which earned him 11 points (seven points for his runnerup finish plus four from the checkpoint). That meant that London’s lead sits at 28 points heading into the backstroke skins that will wrap up the match. It’s not an unsurmountable lead, but it will be tough for Cali to make up that difference.

Iron’s Leonardo Santos finished third in 4:08.32.

Women’s 50 Backstroke Skins

In the first round, Olivia Smoliga finished first for the Cali Condors in 26.11, and she was joined in the top four by Iron’s Melanie Henique and the London Roar duo of Kira Toussaint and Minna Atherton. While Cali was surely pleased to earn the top spot with Smoliga, it was a disappointment seeing Beata Nelson finished seventh in round one and miss out. Nelson has a victory in backstroke skins earlier in the year. London getting two swimmers in and Cali settling for one made Cali’s comeback event much harder.

Smoliga won round two as well, toucing in 26.81, while Atherton finished second to advance. Toussaint was third, and Henique was jackpotted.

But in the final round, Atherton got off to a huge start and held off Smoliga, 27.19 to 27.34. That meant a 14-7 advantage in the final round, and now, London holds a 34-point lead going into the men’s skins (506.5-472.5). That basically locks up the match in favor of the Roar.

Men’s 50 Backstroke Skins

The first round of men’s backstroke skins went to London’s Christian Diener in 22.83 as he finished five hundredths ahead of LA Current’s Ryan Murphy. LA also got Apostolos Christou into the top four along with Iron’s Ryan Glinta.

Regarding the team race, the longshot comeback hopes for Cali Condors came to an end as Coleman Stewart and Jesse Puts finished seventh and eighth, respectively, in the first round, locking that team out. London’s Guilherme Guido ended up fifth to miss out, but with London already holding a 34-point lead and Diener advancing, that will not affect the team standings.

Murphy won round two in 23.51, and Diener took second to also advance to the final. Murphy won again in the final over Diener, his time a 24.32. That clinched Murphy the second-place spot in the Playoff Match #4 MVP standings behind Duncan Scott.

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