Six World Records That Could Fall in the ISL Semifinals

New York Breakers' Marco Koch; Photo Courtesy: Mine Kasapoglu/ISL

The first season of the International Swimming League (ISL) yielded three world records, a rapid and historic start to the league’s life. But 2020 has been fallow on the records front, not a surprise given the lack of meets this season and the rampant training disruptions forced by COVID-19.

But as ISL Season 2 ramps up to its semifinals and finals, that could change. The swimming is already faster than last year: ISL records have been bettered in 20 of 35 events, not including the 100 individual medleys added for this season. Swimmers have flirted with records, some coming within mere hundredths of a second, but no one has yet broken through.

Here’s a look at six short-course world records that could be in jeopardy:

Men’s Breaststroke

Any of the three records could bite the dust, but they’ll have to happen this weekend, with the NY Breakers unlikely to make the finals and Team Iron squarely on the bubble.

Emre Sakci has two shots, in both cases chasing Cameron van der Burgh, who owns two of the seven enduring super-suit-era records set in 2009 or before. Sakci has been 25.29 in the 50 breast, within a whisker of the South African’s record-setting 25.25. In the 100, the Team Iron sensation is barely a tenth off, having gone 55.74. Van der Burgh’s mark is 55.61.

In the 200, Marco Koch will give it everything he’s got in the semifinals. He’s been 2:00.58. Being the first man in history to crack 2:00 is as much the objective as Kirill Prigoda’s world record of 2:00.16. It’s also the first real chance for a record swim, with the event coming fourth in Saturday’s Semifinal 1.

Women’s 50 back


London Roar’s Kira Toussaint; Photo Courtesy: Mine Kasapoglu/ISL

Etienne Medeiros’ world record of 25.67 from 2014 looks tenuous at best. Both Olivia Smoliga (25.74) and Kira Toussaint (25.75) have buzzed within a tenth of it. The Roar’s Toussaint will get a first shot at it in Semifinal 1.

There’s less of a chance that Minna Atherton’s WR in the 100 back, set in ISL last year, could also go down. Smoliga has been 55.62 this season with Toussaint at 55.68. Atherton went 54.89.

Caeleb Dressel, in whatever he wants

Options abound for Dressel, because of course. Both he and Florent Manaudou are within striking distance of Dressel’s record of 20.24 from last season. Dressel has been 20.52, Manaudou 20.55. The 100 free record of Amaury Leveaux (44.94), another of the super-suit marks, could be in play for Dressel, whose been 45.56. Manaudou is further back at 46.06. The Cali Condors and Energy Standard won’t meet until the final.

Dressel’s best shot could be the 100 IM mark. He’s been 50.48 this season, chasing the world record of 50.26 held by Vlad Morozov. Those two can’t match up head-to-head until the ISL final.

Lilly King, 50 breaststroke

You get the feeling that with all of her ISL wins, the queen of breaststroke is building time-wise. And it’s just a matter of when and where all the hard work she’s putting in between races will bear fruit. King owns the long-course record in the 100 but doesn’t have an SCM record to her name.

That could change this weekend. Her best chance could be the 50, where she’s been 28.86 this year. Alia Atkinson, who’ll be in the pool with the London Roar, holds the mark at 28.56. Benedetta Pilato of Energy Standard is in the mix, too, at 28.97.

The other records are further from King. She could clean up a messy three-way tie in the 100 breast, with Atkinson (twice) and Ruta Meilutyte jointly holding the mark at 1:02.36. King has been 1:03.15 and was 1:03.00 last season. Rebecca Soni’s 200 record has held since 2008 at 2:14.57. King has a best time this season of 2:15.80.

Nicholas Santos, 100 fly

The closest brush with history is maybe the most unlikely. At 40, Nicholas Santos is swimming as well as ever. And in the process, he’s chasing his world record of 21.75, having gone 21.78 in his last swim for Team Iron. He’ll be after it again in Semifinal 2.

The record already survived a swipe by Szebastzian Szabo of Aqua Centurions, who went 21.86 but whose team didn’t qualify for the semifinals.

Women’s sprint fly

The 50 fly record has been in the hands of Therese Alshammar since 2009, her 24.38 the oldest mark on the women’s side, a month older than Soni’s 200 breast. But it could be in jeopardy.

Team Iron’s duo leads the charge, with 50 free record-holder Ranomi Kromowidjojo having been 24.59 and teammate Melanie Henique at 24.62. LA Current’s Beryl Gastaldello has a 24.75 to her name. Those three could be in the pool together in Semifinal 2 for a triple-barrel assault.

Honorable mention: Kliment Kolesnikov of Energy Standard in the 100 back, where he’s been 49.16 and is chasing Xu Jiayu’s record of 48.88; Siobhan Haughey, at 1:51.19, is within a second of Sarah Sjostrom’s WR in the 200 free (1:50.43).