Katie Ledecky, Nathan Adrian Ambassadors for International Swimming League

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Katie Ledecky and Nathan Adrian talked about the level of excitement for the direction of the sport of swimming during Tuesday’s conference call announcing the four International Swimming League (ISL) franchises in the United States.

Ledecky and Adrian are ambassadors for the league and will compete in the inaugural season. Teams will be based in New York, Washington and California.

“I am really looking forward to what this league does for our sport,” Ledecky said. “I am honored to be an ISL ambassador. I have learned so much about the league and vision. I feel strongly about the potential impact it can have on the sport. I loved going to meets growing up and looking up to athletes and hopefully more and more of the young kids will see these opportunities.”

The involvement of some of the biggest names in the sport, past and present, was the ISL’s greatest victory. Having people like Ledecky and Adrian, as well as fellow ambassador Ryan Murphy, who was not on the call, is huge for the league.

Adrian said having a new team aspect will boost the sport and the athlete interest.

“I couldn’t have imagined it coming to this point where we are getting people in support of an amazing league. There is something special about swimming,” Adrian said. “There is just something about competing for a team title that can (bring out) great swimming from athletes. That is what excites me about the ISL.”

Meanwhile, having some of the sport’s former superstars like Jason Lezak and Kaitlin Sandeno as team general managers will help connect generations of swimming fans.

It is a way to keep big names in the sport of swimming longer, therefore helping build the fan base as well.

“Swimming is the most popular Olympic sport and at the same time, financially, it is a really poor sport (for the athletes) — 100 times less than tennis or golf,” said ISL founder Konstantin Grigorishin.

“It was a challenge to myself. How do we make swimming more interesting from a spectator point of view. You have to create a show more than watching a race of 1 or 2 minutes. We have to create some team competition. It is not about the times, just about the places. You have to win and bring more points for the team.”

There are four teams in Europe and four in the U.S. that will participate in the league. The format is short-course meters. The regular season will begin in October with the top teams competing for the ISL title in December.

“We decided from the beginning the league should be global because it is a global sport,” Grigorishin said.

FINA is swimming’s global governing body. It originally opposed the league, but backed away from that stance.

“I strongly believe in the business model. A season will help bring in a permanent audience,” Grigorishin said. “We have no conflict of interest with FINA, in my opinion. The league is just for the elite swimmers. We will respect the FINA calendar and arrange our schedule accordingly.”

That means more opportunities for elite swimmers to participate in elite meets around the world.

“Changing the landscape of our sport. This is an incredibly exciting time for our sport of swimming,” Lenny Krayzelburg said. “We have some of the hardest working athletes in the sports world and they deserve more than they have gotten so far. It is going to create better exposure and opportunity for our athletes.”

Krayzelburg is the general manager of the Los Angeles Current. Lezak will head the Cali Condors, while Sandeno is the GM of the DC Trident and Tina Andrew will lead the New York Breakers.

They will have a specific revenue to use to sign swimmers for their teams.

“This season we have appearance money, not an actual salary cap. Next season, we will have to make the decision all together on what the salary cap will be. The level with be some percentage of the league revenue,” Grigorishin said.

The meet will be based on events 400 meters and shorter with an emphasis on relays and skins.

“The competition will be electric,” Sandeno said.

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Taylor Covington
3 years ago

Incredible! Great swimmers and people!