Roar’s Minna Atherton Sinks Her Teeth Into 200 Back Standards As Energy Surges To Day 1 Lead At ISL’s European Derby

Minna Atherton
Minna Atherton gets set to take a bite out of the Commonwealth and Australian 200m backstroke records just 0.02sec shy of the world record - ISL

International Swimming League, London: European Derby, Day 1

London Roar, Energy Standard, Team Iron, Aqua Centurions

Highlights of day 1: Minna Atherton, of London Roar, goes 1:59.25 in the 200m backstroke to fall just 0.02sec shy of the World record as she takes down her own Commonwealth and Australian standard; and Energy mates Chad Le Clos and Florent Manaudou help their team to a leading position going into day 2 on return to the pool where they claimed Olympic gold back at London 2012. For Le Clos, it was his first time back in the Aquatics Centre where he pipped Michael Phelps for the 200m butterfly crown.

London Roar and Energy Standard have both won two matches each. By tomorrow evening here at the London Aquatics Centre, a 2012 Olympic Games converted to a short-course theatre of speed and light for the European Derby of the International Swimming League (ISL) this weekend, one of the two top teams based on this continent will have suffered its first defeat.

(See race reports Below, chronologically bottom to top – and RACE VIDEOS).

In all likelihood, both will claim a ticket to the Final-Match showdown of the League in Las Vegas on December 20-21, though Team Iron will do all it can to muscle in on the action, its best efforts and those of Aqua Centurions bound to sway the fray.

Day 1 confirmed that likely outcome, Energy Standard atop the leaderboard on 238, London Roar much closer than it might have been, on 224, after the disqualification of Energy’s second 4x100m freestyle quartet in the curtain-closing battle.  What had looked like being a lead for Energy of more than 30, possibly 40, points, was reduced to just 14. Roar lives to fight another day at this two-day match.

Energy Standard

Energy Standard coach James Gibson, left, looks on as one of his teams wins the women’s 400 freestyle relay.

In such frenetic, tight, multi-event racing, a DQ capable of throwing the entire match, nothing could be taken for granted, as Adam Peaty’s fourth-place finish in the 50m breaststroke confirmed. The Vegas ticket may well be reasonably secure but Peaty emerged from day one booth bruised but buoyed after he followed a fourth place over 50m with a second place ion the 200m.

It was not his first defeat in the dash, especially short-course, the European s/c champion Fabio Scozzolli, for Aqua, ahead of him again this day, two years after the same outcome in championship waters in Copenhagen.

Even so, the momentary hush in the crowd was audible. Fourth? There’s a rare moment for the big beast of Roar. It left the home pride trailing Energy 86 to 79 points by the first break of the Match.

Minna Atherton In Record Form Once More

The nature of the meet is fast ebb and flow and by the second break Energy has extended its lead to a dominant 161 over Roar’s 138, in the mix a 1:59.25 Commonwealth and Australian 200m backstroke record from Minna  Atherton, who for the third time this season missed a world record by 0.02sec. She also got one, on 54.89 over 100m back in Budapest.  A bonus of $30,000 is thought to have been offered – but has not yet been confirmed. Atherton later took her second win of the day with a 26.05 in the 50m.

Atherton had held the Commonwealth record since the Budapest match, when she missed Hosszu’s 1:59.23 standard from 2014 but took 0.01sec off the Australian regional and national mark held at 1:59.49 by Emily Seebohm since 2015.
  • More on that, Atherton and her coach David Lush soon.

Atherton’s efforts today left her top of the MPV standings after day 1 and 19 of the 37 events:


Everywhere was the fall of tight races where the points relied nit just on the win but the placing of the second man or woman home for each team. The men’s 50m back was a case in point, Guilherme Guido taking the win for Roar in a sizzling 22.82 ahead of Energy pair Florent Manaudou and Kliment Kolesnikov, Roar’s Christian Diener fourth: points – 14 for Roar, 13 for Energy.

The top two teams from Europe will battle with LA Current and Cali Condors, the US-based teams that qualified for the Final Match in Washington last week.

Among day 1 highlights in in London: Peaty and those keen to fell him in the 50m AND the 200m breaststroke (200m: “I’ll be taking it for the team”), a women’s 50m freestyle tussle featuring Cate and Bronte Campbell, Ranomi Kromowidjojo and Sarah Sjostrom, a sorority of sprinters with an Olympic and World titles and medals tally that would not be embarrassed in any collection of heavy metal grafted for in the fastest pools ing swim history.

There are something like 100 Olympic and World Championships podium placers in the League – and many of them are in action this weekend, including Chad le Clos, Katinka Hosszu, Florent Manaudou, Federica Pellegrini and others with Olympic gold in their treasuries. And, they’re racing on the same teams in the multi-national format of on the first global pro-team event ever.

For Le Clos, Manaudou, Cate Campbell, Emily Seebohm and Ranomi Kromowidjojo, the waters of this pool hold special meaning: all claimed Olympic gold here seven years ago at London 2012. One boy, since turned man, watched from afar, getting drunk in a field with schoolmates and wishing he had done more to get to a home Olympics. Four years on, he didn’t just get to a Games, he torched a new line in swimming history for gold.

Peaty’s Pool


Adam Peaty prowls the deck at the London pool where he became the first man rio crack 58sec over 100m breaststroke back in 2015 – Photo Courtesy: Craig Lord

This pool is special, too, for Adam Peaty. It was here in 2015, long-course, that he made 100m on the slowest stroke as fast as Johnny “Tarzan” Weissmuller swam as a pioneer on freestyle, the fastest stroke, back in the 1920s. A pioneering sub-58sec was the time on the clock back in 2015. Now, Peaty is Olympic champion, six times World champion and he holds the world record at 56.88. Stunning.

The 24-year-old looked back four years and said: “That world record set the marker but I was in a very, very different place to where I am now. I was still a very young person, a young boy.

“I look completely different, my whole face has just changed. I was looking at some photos the other day from Rio and my teeth and jaw have changed, I just look like a boy. Now I have hopefully turned into a man. I am 25 next month which is getting on.

“I think that is the most important thing with ISL – we can survive a little bit longer; athletes are getting older, coaches are staying on longer, if there is all that financial support and places to race, it keeps interest in the sport as well. It is a just a circle hopefully of success.”

The League is a part of his new cycle. It is about more than swimming. It is about athletes rights and a new professional era with representation in an Athletes’ Union headed by Matt Biondi; about a new format, one that broadcasters are keen to embrace and develop, about cutting out anyone with a doping record because athletes have had enough.

This weekend was, he said, “very important for me, it’s very important to the team to make Vegas. I’ll be very down if we don’t.”

“I’d be very disappointed if I don’t but at the same time I am in deep training. I am not going to shave for this meet like some people. This meet for me is a lot of fun: it is growing the sport the first season and I think next season it will get very, very competitive with even more at stake. We have got a lot of points and it would be quite disastrous not to make that.”

Live Action:

Men’s 4x100m freestyle

Day 1 Team Scores:

  • Energy: 238
  • Roar: 224
  • Aqua: 178
  • Iron: 165

Men’s 4x100m freestyle

Energy’s Evgeny Rylov, Florent Manaudou, Ivan Girev and Chad le Clos combined for a 3:07.20 win that sealed a fine day for Energy and a team led by coach James Gibson. Aqua was close, on 3:07.51, Iron blocking Roar from the top three in 3:07.86 to 3:08.70.

Relays carry double points and Energy’s 30-point lead would surely grow. Not so: the disqualification of its second quartet gave Roar a better start to day 2, the gap between the top two teams reduced to just 14 points.

Men’s 200m breaststroke

Anton Chupkov

Anton Chupkov came out on top in his prime event, the 200 breaststroke.

World champion Anton Chupkov was not to be matched, his 2:02.98 granting Energy yet another top score. Who was second? Adam Peaty, on 2:04.63. Fourth in the 50m, second in the 200m, Peaty dug deep for a gut-and-grit result for Roar, getting past Energy’s Ilya Shymanovich down the last lap. Shymanovich hung pin for third in 2:04.92, Roar’s second man home, Kiriil Prigoda on 2:05.35.

Women’s 200m breaststroke

Roar’s Sydney Pickrem, a medley ace practicing a key part of the sum she seeks when putting all four strokes together, took the race in 2:19.21. Fanny Lecluyse, of Iron, was close, on 2:19.76, third place  to Kierra Smith, for Energy, on 2:20.49.

Men’s 50m back

Guilherme Guido claimed the lion’s share for Roar in a sizzling 22.82 ahead of Energy pair Florent Manaudou and Kliment Kolesnikov, on 23.31 and 23.43 respectively. Roar’s Christian Diener was fourth in 23.79. That meant 14 for Roar, 13 for Energy and left the match tally at the top at 205 for Energy and 187 for Roar with just the 200m breaststroke battles and the men’s 4x100m free to come.

Women’s 50m backstroke

Minna Atherton claimed her second top-score for Roar this session in 26.05sec. Kira Toussaint, for Iron, and Georgia Davies, for Energy, followed in 26.37 and 26.45.

Men’s 200m freestyle

Roar’s Alex Graham had the race in his grip in 1:42.55, Brent Correia, for Aqua, on 1:42.93, Ivan grieve, of Energy on 1:43.93,  all of that blocking out two big names of 200m free swimming, Chad Le Clos, the first clean man home at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, and James Guy, 2015 World champion, fourth and fifth, respectively.

Women’s 200m freestyle

Kayla Sanchez claimed top points for Energy in 1:52.72, teammate Femke Heemskerk making it an Energy 1-2 in 1:53.22, World champion Federica Pellegrini, for Aqua, third in 1:53.28.

Second-Break Scores:

  • Energy: 161
  • Roar: 138
  • Iron: 111
  • Aqua: 105

Men’s 4x100m medley

Energy’s Kliment Kolesnikov, Ilya Shymanovich, Chad Le Clos and Simonas Bilis kept Roar at bay 3:23.14 to 3:23.56. Roar’s line-up included Guilherme Guyido on backstroke then three of GBR’s world-title winning quartet, Adam Peaty, James Guy and Duncan Scott. Racing tough, racing many times a session, racing in training phase: hard work. Third home was Aqua on 3:24.68, while the second teams from Energy and Roar took fourth and fifth, Energy roaring ahead on points.

Women’s 50m freestyle

Cate Campbell continued her extraordinary sprint season with a 23.48 win for Roar but Energy got the Lion’s share of the spoils, Sarah Sjostrom and Kayla Sanchez next to the wall, in 23.52 and 23.81 respectively.

Men’s 50m freestyle

Florent Manaudou: 20.57. That took out the sprinter of the season to this point, Vladimir Morozov, of Iron, on 20.77, Energy’s second man, Ben Proud, third in 21.22.

Women’s 200m backstroke

Roar’s Minna Atherton went down in history as the first swimmer to set a world record with a sizzling 100m back effort in Budapest. She almost took the second world record of the League, too: at 1:59.25 she was just 0.02sec shy of the global standard established by Katinka Hosszu in 2014 but the Commonwealth and Australian records are now hers.

Margherita Panziera, of Aqua, was next home, in 2:02.36, Kira Toussaint, for Iron on 2:04.18 in third. Hosszu and the previous Commonwealth and Australian standard bearer Emily Seebohm, both Olympic medallists in the event, came home to see how big the threat to their status is growing on the way to Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

Men’s 200m backstroke

World champion Evgeny Rylov set the pace and picked up the big points for Energy in 1:49.67. Christian Diner, for Riar,m was close, on 1:50.36, Travis Mahoney third for Aqua, on 1:51.01.  Peter Bernek’s finish for Roar gave his team the same points as Energy mustered.

First-Break Scores:

  • Energy: 86
  • Roar: 79
  • Iron: 70
  • Aqua: 59

Women’s 4x100m freestyle

Energy Standard’s second quartet of Penny Oleksiak, Sarah Sjostrom, Kayla Sanchez and Femke Heemskerk combined for a dominant win in 3:26.55. That got them 24 points. But Roar was all the roar, its two teams second and third, on 3:28.72 and 3:29.87, converting to 26 points. That left the gap between the top two squads at just 7 points, Roar knocking Iron back to third on the scoreboard by the first break.

Men’s 400m medley

Max Stupin took top points for Energy in 4:04.39. Closest to him was a revelation: on 4:04.55 was Commonwealth 100m freestyle champion Duncan Scott, the Brit who clocked the swiftest textile-suit split in history to sweep past the USA for a Britain historic gold in the 4x100m medley at World Championships in Gwangju back in July. Third home was American medley ace Gunnar Bentz, for Iron, on 4:05.83.

Women’s 400m medley

Olympic champion Katinka Hosszu gave Iron its second win of the day in 4:25.24 ahead of Fantine Lesaffre, of Energy, on 4:26.41, and Sydney Pickrem of Roar, on 4:27.59.

Men’s 50m breaststroke

Adam Peaty is the big beast of Roar but in the short-course pool, his dash is dodgy, courtesy of a start not as sharp as those of some around him, his turn like “screeching round a corner” (his words). It showed today as a man who has pipped him before, Fabio Scozzolli, of Aqua, did so again, 25.62, to Peaty’s 26.00. In between came a 25.89 from Vladimir Morozov, for Iron, and Ilya Shymanovich, for Energy, on 25.97.

Women’s 50m breaststroke

Alia Atkinson gave Iron its first top-score of the match in 29.32, Energy’s Imogen Clark on 29.44, Aqua’s Martina Carraro home in 29.44 for third.

Men’s 100m butterfly

Chad le Clos hit back for Energy with a strong 49.34 victory over Aqua’s Matteo Rivolta, 50.54, Vini Lanza, of Roar, on 50.59.

Women’s 100m butterfly

Emma McKeon took first blood for the Roar with a 55.95sec win over Energy’s Olympic champion Sarah Sjostrom, on 56.33, and Roar’s second top-three finisher, Marie Wattel, on 56.39.