ISL Vegas Final: Who Is Winning the Championship This Weekend?

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Sarah Sjostrom is leading the undefeated Energy Standard team into the first ever ISL final. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

ISL Vegas Final: Who will take the first ever ISL championship?

It is finally here. The first ever International Swimming League (ISL) Vegas championship will be this weekend in Las Vegas, Nevada. It sort of feels like the end of a season cycle with all of the swimmers in the International Swimming League “shooting for Vegas” this year. Well, now Vegas is finally here so what should we expect this weekend?

ISL Vegas Details

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

When: December 20 (Friday) – December 21 (Saturday)

Where: Las Vegas, Nevada, USA

Who: Energy Standard, London Roar, Cali Condors, LA Current

Where to watch by region

  • United States: ESPN3
  • Europe and Asia-Pacific: Eurosport
  • Australia: 7plus
  • New Zealand: Spark
  • Canada: CBC
  • Latin America: Claro Sport
  • Brazil: TV GloboKevin Reust
  • Caribbean: FlowSports
  • Israel: Sports 1
  • Middle East/North Africa: Bein Sport

When to watch by region

  • New York, NY (Eastern) – 4:00 p.m.
  • Los Angeles, Ca. (Pacific) – 1:00 p.m. (Local Time)
  • London, ENG – 9:00 p.m.
  • Tokyo, JPN – 6:00 a.m. (next day)
  • Sydney, AUS – 8:00 a.m. (next day)

World Record Watch?

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London Roar’s Minna Atherton is the only swimmer thus far to break a world record in the ISL. Photo Courtesy: Gian Mattia D’Alberto/LaPresse

We raised the world record question in the lead-up to the American Derby meet in College Park and ultimately no world records fell. However, four American records fell from Ian Finnerty (50, 100 breast), Caeleb Dressel (50 fly) and Melanie Margalis (400 IM) in College Park. Dressel and Margalis advanced on to Las Vegas and some swimmers competing in the meet have indicated they will rest for the meet, meaning that records are more likely across the board.

After this weekend, the focus shifts to long course and the 2020 Olympic Games. Plus the holidays are coming up so it will be time to get to work next week. Why not rest for this weekend? The best swimmers in the world will be there and it is clear that winning the Vegas final is a big incentive to everyone all season long.

This is the first time in the ISL that all the teams will be at full strength. Kyle Chalmers (Roar) wasn’t in London. Adam Peaty (Roar) wasn’t in Dallas. Evgeny Rylov (Energy) wasn’t in London. Ryan Murphy (Current) wasn’t in DC. Ariarne Titmus (Condors) wasn’t in DC, either. Not a lot of swimmers have been present at all three of their meets thus far this season, which makes sense since it is an Olympic year and the athletes want to minimize their international traveling. Some of the Australians in particular had to travel to Indianapolis and then Naples and then back to Australia, literally going around the entire globe in a span of two weeks. So it made sense that Titmus, Mitch Larkin and the other Aussies were not in DC knowing they were likely going to be going to Vegas in a month.

These are things that will have to be worked out in the future of the league as the question of “should we make attendance mandatory?” will likely be raised. But for now we have the first ever ISL Vegas final and everyone on the teams should be there.

So what does that mean for world records?

Minna Atherton of the London Roar has been the only swimmer in the ISL to get under a world record this season, breaking the 100 back world record at the Budapest match. She has gotten close a couple times in the 200 back this season, but her 100 back in October remains the only world record set in the ISL. The number of world records set in Vegas depends on what kind of rest these swimmers will get from their coaches.

The best chance at a world record will likely come from Caeleb Dressel, who set the American record in the 50 fly in DC. He set the 100 butterfly world record in long course this summer and is also capable of swimming a fast 50 and 100 free.

Adam Peaty and Sarah Sjostrom also come to mind. Peaty, the 100 breaststroke master in long course, does not hold either SCM world record in the 50 or 100 breaststroke with that distinction belonging to Cameron van der Burgh. If he shows up to Vegas ready to go, then a world record is certainly possible. He had put the 100 breast LCM out of reach for a long time with a 56.8 this summer, so he definitely has a chance to get the SCM record. The only thing is that Peaty is not a great short course swimmer, so that could be what hinders him from any world marks this weekend. He hasn’t shown signs of invincibility in the ISL, but he is still Adam Peaty, so that means the world record will be under threat when he dives in the pool.

Sjostrom has been the highest scoring swimmer of the league thus far this season and has also set a number of world records in her career, currently holding the 100 fly and 200 free SCM records. But like Peaty, Sjostrom is not primarily a short course swimmer. She doesn’t hold the fastest time this season in any event, which is slightly surprising since she won medals in five individual events at the World Championships this summer. However, she has scored the most points of any swimmer in the league (partly because she has been present at every single meet) and is a great racer when matched up with the world’s best.

Lilly King and Ariarne Titmus have set world records in their careers as well and if they show up to Vegas in prime racing condition, then a world record from either could be possible. Titmus holds the 400 free world record in short course and King holds the 100 breast record in long course.

Fastest Times This Year in ISL (Men)

  • 50 Free: Florent Manaudou, Energy, 20.57
  • 100 Free: Caeleb Dressel, Condors, 45.69
  • 200 Free: Alexander Graham, Roar, 1:41.58
  • 400 Free: Elijah Winnington, Roar, 3:38.30
  • 50 Back: Guilherme Guido, Roar, 22.55
  • 100 Back: Guilherme Guido, Roar, 49.61
  • 200 Back: Evgeny Rylov, Energy, 1:49.24
  • 50 Breast: Adam Peaty, Roar, 25.85
  • 100 Breast: Adam Peaty, Roar, 56.18
  • 200 Breast: Anton Chupkov, Energy, 2:02.98
  • 50 Fly: Caeleb Dressel, Condors, 22.21
  • 100 Fly: Caeleb Dressel, Condors, 49.16
  • 200 Fly: Tom Shields, Current, 1:50.25
  • 200 IM: Mitch Larkin, Condors, 1:52.93
  • 400 IM: Andrew Seliskar, Current, 4:02.88
  • 4×100 Medley Relay: London Roar (Guilherme GuidoAdam PeatyVini LanzaKyle Chalmers) 3:21.64
  • 4×100 Free Relay: LA Current (Nathan AdrianRyan HeldBlake PieroniTom Shields), 3:07.35

Fastest Times This Year in ISL (Women)

  • 50 Free: Cate Campbell, Roar, 23.33
  • 100 Free: Cate CampbellEmma McKeon, Roar, 51.02
  • 200 Free: Kayla Sanchez, Energy, 1:52.72
  • 400 Free: Ariarne Titmus, Condors, 3:57.61
  • 50 Back: Minna Atherton, Roar, 25.81
  • 100 Back: Minna Atherton, Roar, 54.89
  • 200 Back: Minna Atherton, Roar, 1:59.25
  • 50 Breast: Lilly King, Condors, 29.00
  • 100 Breast: Lilly King, Condors, 1:03.00
  • 200 Breast: Lilly King, Condors, 2:17.78
  • 50 Fly: Beryl Gastaldello, Current, 24.81
  • 100 Fly: Emma McKeon, Roar, 55.39
  • 200 Fly: Hali Flickinger, Condors, 2:03.81
  • 200 IM: Melanie Margalis, Condors, 2:04.18
  • 400 IM: Melanie Margalis, Condors, 4:24.46
  • 4×100 Free: Energy Standard (Penny OleksiakSarah SjostromKayla SanchezFemke Heemskerk) 3:26.55
  • 4×100 Medley Relay: London Roar (Minna AthertonSydney Pickrem, Emma McKeonCate Campbell) 3:46.99

Fastest Times This Year in ISL (Mixed)

  • 4×100 Free: London Roar (Alexander GrahamDuncan ScottEmma McKeonCate Campbell) 3:16.04

International Swimming League Final: Who Wins?

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Will Chad Le Clos be able to push Energy Standard to a win? Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Who will be the historical first champion of the International Swimming League? Energy Standard has yet to lose a meet, eeking out wins against the Cali Condors in Naples and the London Roar in London by close margins. With Chad Le Clos and Sarah Sjostrom capable of scoring in any number of events, plus the sprint prowess of Florent Manaudou and Ben Proud as well as relay assets Penny Oleksiak and Kayla Sanchez, Energy has a very stacked team. Plus the team will be adding Daiya Seto to the mix, filling in any weaknesses they had in the IMs, as the Japanese ace will be making his ISL debut in Vegas.

The problem for every other team is that Energy Standard seem to have depth as well as talent at the top. Their closers in the Skins will be crucial and they have delivered thus far this season. Sjostrom and Femke Heemskerk made it to final in the first two matches and Florent Manaudou and Ben Proud have both made it to the final at least once as well. If it comes down to it, Energy Standard has the upper hand in the Skins.

The Energy Standard team was one of the driving forces in starting the ISL, originally starting the Energy For Swim meet that was supposed to take place in December 2018 but ultimately was forced to cancel after threats from FINA over those participating in the non-FINA sanctioned event. A lot of the Energy Standard swimmers already train together in Turkey, something that a couple of the swimmers from other teams in the league hope to see in the near future: ISL teams training together year-round. It would only feel right that Energy Standard would come out of the inaugural ISL season as champions.

If Energy Standard were an old-school NBA team, they would be like the Boston Celtics with Larry Bird. They are traditional, tough, and they know how to win.

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Adam Peaty; Photo Courtesy: Fabio Ferrari/LaPresse

However, the London Roar just seem to have too much depth. Even though Energy beat the Roar in their “home pool” in London, the Roar did not have Kyle Chalmers, who has been a valuable asset this season. When looking at the top time in each event in the ISL this season of teams in the final four, 15 of the 35 come from the Roar, eleven come from the Condors, five come from Energy, and four from the Current.

The Roar seem to not have a weak spot. They have British stars Adam PeatyDuncan Scott and James Guy. They have Aussie stars Chalmers, Emma McKeonCate and Bronte Campbell and Minna Atherton. They are just strong across the board and with a team at full strength it is hard to see them going down.

If the Roar are to get over Energy, they will need to cancel out Energy Standard’s best swimmers. If Emma McKeon and Cate Campbell can beat Sarah Sjostrom in the 100 fly and sprint free, then that gives them an advantage. Sjostrom is like Larry Bird, and if you can slow her down, then you’ve won half the battle.

The Roar’s only weakness is that their men’s relays are not as good as Energy’s as the latter seem to have more sprinters. If the meet comes down to the Skins, the Roar have the likes of Cate Campbell and McKeon, who can compete with the dangerous duo of Sjostrom and Heemskerk. The men have Chalmers and Duncan Scott, which is not as strong as Manaudou and Proud, but if they can at least get two to the second round, then that would be huge.

If the Roar were an old-school NBA team, they would be the Los Angeles “Showtime” Lakers with Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. They’re a stacked, flashy team that is built to win multiple titles. Plus Energy Standard is their biggest rival and those two are expected to dominate the league for the next few years.

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Kylie Masse; Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

The Condors also have a sneaky deep team, despite the fact they have finished second in every meet they swum this season, losing two to Energy Standard and losing narrowly to the LA Current in the American Derby. Dressel is the star for the Condors and he will score a lot of points. They have been dynamite in the women’s breaststrokes with the lethal duo of Lilly King and Molly Hannis, and have been equally as dominant in the women’s backstrokes with Worlds medalists Olivia Smoliga and Kylie Masse.

Mitch Larkin and Ariarne Titmus have also been clutch for the Condors and their absence in the American Derby was felt by the rest of the team. Melanie Margalis has also had a sneaky good season, scoring American records in both the 200 and 400 IM. Do the Condors have a team that can play spoiler and take down the European teams? It’s certainly possible because their team is one of the deepest in the entire league.

If the Condors were an old-school NBA team, they would be the Bad Boy Detroit Pistons with Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars and Dennis Rodman. They’re deep, tough, and are capable of beating anyone, but often overshadowed by the Celtics (Energy) and Lakers (Roar).

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Beryl Gastaldello has been a sprint star for the L.A. Current.

The Current have a strong men’s team led by Ryan Murphy and have nice relay depth with the presence of Michael ChadwickMatt Grevers and Blake Pieroni.

Tom Shields has been valuable for the team as well and so has Beryl Gastaldello. The problem is that the Current seem to be just one or two swimmers away from having a team worthy of competing for a title.

Who knows what will happen with “free agency” in the off-season. Abbey Weitzeil would be a top “draft pick” and a lot of the Cal swimmers she trains with are already on the team so if she could choose to go anywhere, the Current would be likely. But the league has not indicated what their off-season will look like or how they will go about “drafting” the top prospects.

Shields is valuable for the Current because he is a great short course swimmer and has been faster than Chad Le Clos this season, which is one of Energy Standard’s strongpoints. They have the fastest men’s free relay and that sprint depth could be what keeps them in the title hunt.

Beryl Gastaldello also came up clutch for the Current as the French star is capable of competing with anyone in three of the four 50 strokes and also won the Skins at the American Derby. She holds the quickest time in the ISL in the 50 butterfly and if she can take those points away from Sarah Sjostrom and Energy Standard, then that is huge for the Current.

If the Current were an old-school NBA team, they would be the Utah Jazz with Karl Malone and John Stockton. They’re hard nosed and can push any team to seven games (the Skins) but are missing one or two pieces to get a title.

ISL Vegas Prediction: London Roar take the first ever ISL title. Energy Standard gets second ahead of the Condors and Current. 

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