Normalcy! Analyzing What Happened at the US Open and ISL Semifinals Last Weekend

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Normalcy! Analyzing What Happened at the US Open and ISL Semifinals Last Weekend

In a year that has been anything but ordinary, the sensory overload sensation of trying to follow multiple meets at once was welcomed this past weekend when the International Swimming League semifinals and the US Open ennead were going on. There was a lot of swimming going on and a lot to digest, and with Thanksgiving coming around the corner, we are going to help you digest some of the key swims from this weekend and what we learned as we close down 2020 and open up yet another Olympic year.

Long Course is a Different Animal

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The US Open at Indianapolis. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

There have already been three world records broken this season in the International Swimming League in short course meters, along with a plethora of national records from nations all around the world. That can be attributed to a number of things: the swimmers in Budapest have been in the same environment for over a month so the exhaustion of travel is no longer there, and they have all been training short course meters so they are getting used to the format and swimming faster than they ever have.

This weekend’s US Open times were not slow by any means. But in a year where most of the nation’s top swimmers were out of the water for two or three months, they are missing an aerobic base training, and racing long course without an aerobic base is hard to do. For example, Carson Foster blasted a 3:35 400 IM in yards a few weeks ago at Texas’ meet against Texas A&M, whereas this past weekend he swam a 4:16 in long course, which was three seconds off his best time. Now, we aren’t going to claim we know how Foster is training, but that could potentially be an indication that he and a lot of the swimmers in the US are just not adept to racing long course at the moment.

When watching the Greensboro meet, a lot of the winners commented on their lack of long course racing, and some of the times showed. In Des Moines, Regan Smith was just a 59.9 in the 100 back, when roughly a year ago she was under 59. It just goes to show that racing in long course is a completely different animal, and although these swimmers are in racing shape, it is going to take some time to establish that aerobic base back.

Smells Like Teen Spirit

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Rachel Stege at the US Open. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

When the COVID-19 pandemic pushed the Olympic Games back a whole year, many swimming fans began to wonder if the 2021 Olympic team would look any different to the projected 2020 team. Many theorized that the young teenagers that have another year of growth and development will benefit the most, and could possibly unseat the veterans with an extra year of preparation. And based on this weekend’s results, it appears the teenagers at least have a strong case that this could be a young Olympic team next year.

Let’s start with 16-year-old Claire Curzan, who has been on fire this entire summer where she notably took down a few national age group records in short course yards. And then this past weekend in Greensboro, she was out under world record pace in the 100 butterfly before touching in a 56.61, which tied her with hall of famer Inge de Bruijn on the all-time list, as De Bruijn’s time stood as the world record in the event for nine years from 2000 – 2009. Curzan was a name a lot of swimming fans circled as to who could benefit from this extra year and sneak their way on the Olympic team, and she is definitely making a lot of people look smart with just over 200 days until the scheduled Olympic Trials.

Another name is Carson Foster, who as mentioned earlier became the second fastest performer in the 400 IM in short course yards earlier this year. Foster won the 400 IM this past weekend at the US Open and finished second in the 200 IM. At just 19-years-old, he has been the face of his generation in the pool as he was one of the youngest competitors in Omaha in 2016, and could be in the mix to make the Olympic team in a few events if he keeps on this path.

All in all, 11 teenagers won events this past weekend: Arabella Sims (15), Gretchen Walsh (17), Torri Huske (17), Regan Smith (18), Emma Weyant (18), Jack Aikins (18), Phoebe Bacon (18), Anna Elendt (19) and Will Grant (19).

Don’t Poke the Tiger (Lion)

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Adam Peaty celebrates. Photo Courtesy: Mine Kasapoglu / ISL

No one was necessarily trying to get under Adam Peaty’s skin, but when his coach Mel Marshall and eventually teammate James Guy called out Energy Standard’s Ilya Shymanovich for utilizing an illegal kick en route to his breaking of Peaty’s European record, it caused many swimming fans to anxiously await Peaty’s next showdown with Shymanovich. Although neither parties weighed in on the illegal kick, viewers could tell tensions were high. And in the 100 breaststroke, Peaty broke Cameron van der Burgh’s world record, exactly 11 years to the day, for his first world mark in short course meters.

Peaty beat Shymanovich to the wall in all four of his events, first taking him down in the 200 breast for his best time of the season (2:03.06), and then taking a win in the 50 breast at 25.50 to Shymanovich’s 25.55. Peaty then unleashed a 54.84 in the medley relay in a thrilling race that came down to Duncan Scott’s 45.96 to hold off Florent Manaudoud’s 45.77 on the final leg, giving the London Roar the control over the Skins race where Peaty took down Shymanovich in all three rounds.

Now with one more round to go, Peaty and Shymanovich will meet once more as their teams fight for the 2020 team title. Even when the London Roar team was decimated by the loss of its mostly Australian roster, the team still has a chance to win the league title, and that is in big part to Peaty’s clutch performances this past weekend.

Deja Vu

Kristian Gkolomeev (photo: Mike Lewis)

Members of the London Roar, Cali Condors and LA Current take the blocks. Photo Courtesy: Mike Lewis/ISL

With the ISL final four now set, the exact four teams from last year’s final have been reprised in this year’s edition: Energy Standard, Cali Condors, LA Current and the London Roar. Yes, the teams look drastically different; Cali Condors are undefeated and look poised to take the title thanks in part to the swims of rookies Beata NelsonErika Brown and Coleman Stewart.

Energy Standard has no Daiya Seto this year nor do they have Penny Oleksiak, but they have Siobhan Haughey and Danas Rapsys who have been huge off-season additions. The LA Current don’t have Nathan Adrian or Ryan Held, but gained rookie Maxime Rooney as well as Abbey Weitzeil, who have also given the team depth. And the London Roar have lost their Australians, but have found success out of newcomers Alia AtkinsonFreya Anderson and Anna Hopkin to give the team a chance at the title.

The teams look different, but the final looks the exact same, and although we are not complaining, this could turn off some viewers of the ISL, who don’t necessarily want to see the same teams every year competing in the league final. This weekend’s final represents a larger problem within the league that there is a power imbalance and the good teams will only get better if there is no cap space rule or draft. If the top teams have access to the top free agents, then that puts the bottom tier teams at a disadvantage. That’s a conversation for another day but it is something the league will need to address moving forward.

If the London Roar make this cinderella comeback story and win the title, then is it fair to allow them to get Kyle ChalmersEmma McKeon and Cate Campbell back? Or will Australia need its own expansion franchise? There’s a lot to weigh over, but these are some issues the ISL needs to figure out in the future — how to give the bottom tier teams a chance to represent themselves in future final fours.

7 comments

  1. James Ash

    We have Trumpers here in California too. So now we can’t have swim meets either. They are the worst. Ruining our kids swimming careers.

    • Tara Garrett Houser

      Erik Lebsack no what’s ignorant is believing that bad shit (ie a virus) isn’t a personal attack – its nature. So railing against it as a plot is ignorant, ignoring it is ignorant, not protecting the people who elected you is ignorant. We could have done better – he chose not to which is ignorant.

    • Mark Honan

      James Ash lol. You win dumbest comment of the year. California is the laughing stock of the country, followed by oregon, seattle, boston, ny and mich. Looks like a lefty issue.

  2. Jessica Middleton Newman

    Well in places like ny that most kids are still not back to training.. ( since march) … much less not having meets… the times will be below average.

  3. Jennifer Hunter

    We are lucky here in NZ our swimmers have been back competing – apart from a 6 week march lockdown and 4 weeks in July it’s life as normal for all our athletes – zero complacency for Covid here with shut boarders – we have no community cases currently – I feel for the US

  4. Ryan Guerra

    This is a great picture of the Indiana University Head Coach and “The GOAT”, Ray Looze!

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