ISL Semifinal 2, Day 1 Notes: Anastasia Gorbenko Defining a Key Role For Current; Dressel on WR Hunt

Anastasia Gorbenko
Photo Courtesy: MIKE LEWIS / ISL

ISL Semifinal 2, Day 1 Notes: Anastasia Gorbenko Defining a Key Role For Current; Dressel on WR Hunt

Much is made of the starpower evident in the International Swimming League, and rightfully so. When superstars like Caeleb Dressel, Sarah Sjostrom and Adam Peaty are routinely brought together, that scenario is a positive for interest in and growth of the sport. But the ISL format doesn’t just stress the importance of the biggest names.

Take Anastasia Gorbenko as an example.

Racing for the L.A. Current in the second semifinal of the ISL postseason, Gorbenko registered a come-from-behind triumph in the 200 individual medley, her winning time of 2:06.68 just getting the best of Toronto’s Kelsey Wog (2:06.87). While the time was unspectacular, the race was all about the result, and Gorbenko showed grit to get to the wall first.

Gorbenko was fifth at the midway point and used a strong breaststroke leg to move into second before clocking the fastest freestyle split to overhaul Wog. The 2018 Youth Olympic Games champion in the 200 medley for Israel, Gorbenko has risen to the occasion in several instances for L.A. Current coach David Marsh. Obviously, her outing on Sunday was an example.

Perhaps the biggest show of Gorbenko’s value to the Current arrived during the fifth match of the regular season. With the London Roar choosing the 50 breaststroke for the Skins competition, Los Angeles looked like it might not advance a swimmer beyond the preliminary round. Instead, Gorbenko tied for fourth in the first round to narrowly move to the semifinals, and then dug deep to finish second in the semifinals. While she could not topple London’s Alia Atkinson in the final, she gave the Jamaican all she could handle and provided her team with a gutsy performance and key scoring.

As the ISL nears its second-season conclusion, the stars will certainly shine and receive a heavy percentage of the accolades. Yet, it’s key to remember the contributions provided throughout the lineup, such as those from Anastasia Gorbenko.

Will Licon-Power

The landscape of the 200 breaststroke has shifted in recent years, with the event speeding up considerably, and headlined by Russia’s Anton Chupkov. During that time, however, the United States has been static, and with the next Olympic Games rapidly approaching, Team USA needs an athlete to surge in the leadup to the Tokyo Games.

Will Licon provided a reminder that he could be that guy. Holding off Anton McKee, the University of Texas product won the 200 breaststroke at the Duna Arena, his time of 2:02.47 just missing the American record of 2:02.33, held by Cody Miller. While Licon’s effort came in the short-course format, he has proven his worth in the Olympic-sized pool, having finished third at the 2016 Olympic Trials.

Licon has actually been slightly faster in the short-course version of the 200 breast, thanks to his mark of 2:02.42 in last year’s ISL finale in Las Vegas. With the L.A. Current expected to advance to this year’s championship, Licon should benefit from additional rest and take another shot at the American record next weekend.

“It was good for now,” Licon said. “The teams (in the first semifinal) set the tone with their speed and made everyone excited to get up and race.”

Sakci Comes Up Short

Coming off a time of 25.29 in the 50-meter breaststroke from the end of the regular season, Team Iron’s Emre Sakci looked like a good bet to break Cameron van der Burgh’s world record of 25.25 during the semifinals. But Sakci was unable to make it happen in the semifinals, as he touched the wall in 25.54. Because Team Iron will not advance to the finals, the race was Sakci’s last opportunity of the ISL season.

World Record Watch

Look for the Cali Condors’ Caeleb Dressel to make a run at the world record in the 100 individual medley when the second semifinal resumes on Monday. In his regular-season finale, Dressel clocked an American record of 50.48, which was just off the world record of Vladimir Morozov, an effort of 50.26 from World Cup action in 2018.

Dressel was superb on the first day of his semifinal, as he followed a victory in the 100 butterfly with a clocking of 20.28 in the 50 freestyle. That performance just missed Dressel’s world record of 20.24, which he set last year. Dressel also added a sub-45 split on his leg of the 400 freestyle leg.