The Week That Was: ISL Begins and Paralympic Racing in Full Swing

Coleman Stewart Brodie Williams (photo: Mike Lewis)
Coleman Stewart and Brodie Williams of the Cali Condors walk out for a race during ISL match 2 in Naples, Italy -- Photo Courtesy: Mike Lewis / ISL

The Week That Was sponsored by Suitmate.

This week, the International Swimming League (ISL) got underway with its third season, and 2019 champion Energy Standard and 2020 champion Cali Condors were each victorious in their first meet, while Coleman Stewart supplied the top individual swim with a world record. Meanwhile, the Paralympic swimming competition begin in Tokyo, and that has produced many world records through the first five days.

Read the five biggest stories of the week in The Week That Was sponsored by Suitmate.

The Week That Was #1: ISL Season 3 Begins, Coleman Stewart Breaks World Record

Coleman Stewart breaks WR 100 backstroke Cali Condors ISL (photo: Mike Lewis)

Coleman Stewart after breaking the 100 back world record during ISL match 2 — Photo Courtesy: Mike Lewis/ISL

By Matthew De George

When Coleman Stewart got the text from Braden Holloway Saturday night, he didn’t really have a good answer. Stewart had just set the American short-course record in the men’s 100-meter backstroke, the NC State grad clocking in at 48.91 seconds off the men’s medley relay. And his Wolfpack coach had a valid question: “Dude, what just happened?”

If Stewart didn’t have an answer Saturday, the Cali Condor was even more at a loss for words Sunday when he blasted the world record in the event, going 48.33 seconds.

Stewart was all-around sensational for the Condors, who dominated ISL Match 2 with a league-record 707 points to get the victory over the LA Current, Tokyo Frog Kings and NY Breakers. Stewart helped the cause at every turn, including a 47-point output in the men’s backstroke skins to clinch the win.

Against the clock, though, Stewart was even more impressive. The debut season of ISL in 2019 yielded three world records. That was upped to nine individual world records (in six events) in 2020, but all came in the semifinals and final. A world record in the preliminary matches is stunning; to do it in the opening match of the season is utterly gob smacking.

“Short-course meters is kind of my bread-and-butter, just because I kick off the wall a lot,” Stewart said in a virtual mixed zone. “It’s a little different than short-course yards, but I’m glad to be back my wheelhouse. It was pretty cool to get that record.”

The swim downs the ISL and world record set last November by Energy Standard’s Kliment Kolesnikov at 48.58. Stewart had gone 48.91 on Saturday to clip .01 off Matt Grevers’ American record from 2015. Sunday, the mustachioed Stewart trounced that, taking it out at a savage pace of 23.45 and holding on to make history and take a full jackpot over the field at 37 points.

Read all about the action from the first two ISL matches of the season. In match 1, stars like Sarah SjostromChad le ClosSiobhan Haughey and Evgeny Rylov each picked up wins for Energy Standard while 15-year-old Summer McIntosh elevated the Toronto Titans. In match 2, Stewart’s records along with Caeleb Dressel’s four individual and three relay wins helped give the Condors an easy victory, while Daiya Seto was very impressive in his first meet since a very disappointing Tokyo Olympics, recording four victories.

Match recaps:

#2: World Records Rocked at Paralympics

McKenzie Coan

McKenzie Coan

By Dan D’Addona, Matthew De George & John Lohn

Through five days of racing at the Tokyo Paralympics, more than 20 world records have been broken. Go day-by-day and read about all the action.

Day one men: It was a gold rush for the Australian men during the first day of the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo. The Aussie men claimed three gold medals and two bronze medals to open the competition.

It was a huge start for the Aussies, but several other countries claimed medals in a fast start to the meet, including an upset of the world record holder in the 100 butterfly and Russian Olympic Committee’s Roman Zhdanov setting a world record.

Day one women: The 2020 Paralympic Games began in Tokyo and the women’s swimming races were highlighted by a world record on night one. Russian Paralympic Committee’s Valeriia Shabalina claimed a world record to win the women’s 100 butterfly S14 class. She won gold in 1:03.59 to beat her own world record of 1:03.68 set in 2019. Australia’s Paige Leonhardt won the silver in 1:05.48, followed by teammate Ruby Storm (1:06.50).

Day two prelimsAmericans Anastasia Pagonis and Gia Pergolini set world records Wednesday night, accounting for two of the world marks set on the second night of swimming at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics. Pagonis will be the top seed in the women’s S11 400 freestyle final by nearly 12 seconds. She blasted the field to win her heat in 4:58.40, unseating the world record set in 2019 by Lisette Bruinsma of the Netherlands at 5:02.19. In the next event, Pergolini destroyed the women’s S13 100 backstroke. She won the second heat of two in 1:05.05, downing the world mark set in May by Carlotta Gilli of Italy in 1:05.56.

Day two men: Belarus’ Ihar Boki surged to a world record to win the men’s 100 backstroke S13 class gold medal. He touched the wall in 56.36, breaking his own previous world record of 56.68 that he set in the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Canada’s Nicholas Guy Turbide took the silver in 59.70, while Russian Paralympic Committee’s Vladimir Sotnikov took the bronze in 59.86. China also set a world record in the mixed 4×50 relay, winning in 2:15.49. Italy took the silver in 2:21.45 and Brazil won the bronze in 2:24.82. China’s swimmers were Zhang Li, Zheng Tao, Yuan Weiyi and Lu Dong.

Day two women: Gia Pergolini of the U.S. set a world record to win gold in the 100 backstroke S13 class. She touched the wall in 1:04.64 breaking her own world record set in prelims (1:05.05). Italy’s Carlotta Gilli took the silver (1:06.10) and Australia’s Katja Dedekind took the bronze (1:06.49). The U.S. wasn’t finished. Anastasia Pagonis of the U.S. broke the 400 freestyle S11 class world record to claim gold in 4:54.49. Liesette Bruinsma of the Netherlands won silver in 5:05.34, followed by China’s Chi Liwen, who took the bronze in 5:07.56.

Great Britain’s Tully Kearney won her second medal of the games, this time claiming gold. She won the 100 freestyle S5 class gold medal in 1:14.39 to break the world record. China’s Zhang Li took the silver in 1:18.80, while Italy’s Monica Boggioni earned the bronze in 1:22.43. Maisie Summers-Newton gave Great Britain its second gold medal on the night, and won in world record fashion. She claimed gold in the 200 IM SM6 class, breaking the world record in 2:56.68. Ukraine’s Yelyzaveta Mereshko took the silver in 2:58.04 and Germany’s Verena Schott won the bronze in 2:59.09, just ahead of Elizabeth Marks of the U.S., who finished fourth in 3:02.43.

The 100 breaststroke S89 was a big event for the Netherlands as Chantalle Zijderveld won gold in a world record 1:10.99. She went 1-2 with teammate Lisa Kruger (1:13.91). Australia’s Keira Stephens won the bronze in 1:17.59.

Day three prelims: The speed in the women’s S11 50 freestyle at the Tokyo Paralympics was so intense Friday that Ma Jia went from a world record to not even holding a national record in the span of one heat. Ma briefly set the world record in the first heat of the 50 free, stopping the clock in 30.05 seconds. That took down the world mark set by Cyprus’s Karolina Pelendritou in June (30.20 seconds) and the Paralympic record that Ma’s countryman Li Guizhi had set in Rio (30.73). It didn’t last long for Ma Jia. Pelendritou reclaimed her world record in the next heat with a time of 29.92, the first woman to crack 30 seconds in the event. The second seed in finals is Li, who went 29.95 to recapture the Chinese and Asian records.

Day three men: Robert Griswold knew the feeling of standing on the Paralympic Games podium from his bronze-medal showing at the 2016 competition in Rio de Janeiro. Five years later, the American moved to the top step and heard the playing of the Star Spangled Banner at the Tokyo Games. Racing in the S8 classification of the 100-meter backstroke, Griswold claimed the gold medal in dominant fashion, as he set a world record of 1:02.55. Griswold sliced nearly a half-second off the former world mark, which was held by China’s Cong Zhou at 1:02.90. Cong set that world record en route to Rio gold.

Great Britain’s Reece Dunn joined Griswold as a world-record breaker when he won the S14 200 freestyle in 1:52.40. That swim sliced .56 off Dunn’s previous global standard, which he set in 2019. Dunn needed every bit of the new record as Brazil’s Gabriel Bandeira was also under the former mark, going 1:52.74. Israel’s Mark Malyar also joined in the world-record breaking. Like Dunn, Malyar needed a world record to win gold as he was pushed to the wall in the SM7 200 individual medley by the Ukraine’s Andrii Trusov. Malyar checked in with a new mark of 2:29.01, with Trusov touching the wall in 2:29.99.

Day three women: It was a big night for United States women at the Paralympic Games in Tokyo, with Mallory Weggemann and Ahalya Lettenberger leading the way for the Stars and Stripes. In the SM7 200-meter individual medley, Weggemann and Lettenberger put together a gold-silver finish, Weggemann’s title following an earlier win by American Robert Griswold on the men’s side. Coming off a Paralympic record in the preliminaries, Weggemann registered a time of 2:55.48 to comfortably prevail, with Lettenberger picking up the silver medal in 3:02.82.

Day four men: It was a strong day for the Ukraine at the Paralympic Games in Tokyo, with Maksym Krypak leading the way. Krypak engaged in a battle with Australia’s Rowan Crothers in the S10 100-meter freestyle and ultimately came away with the gold medal, thanks to a swim of 50.64. Crothers earned the silver medal in 51.37, followed by bronze medalist Stefano Raimondi of Italy in 51.45. Krypak’s time set a world record, as he was faster than the previous standard of 50.87, set in 2010 by Andre Brasil.

Day four women: Flash back to the 2004 Paralympic Games in Athens. There, Jessica Long captured the first gold medal of her career. On Saturday, the American star added to her collection when she won the SM8 200-meter individual medley at the Paralympics in Tokyo. It was the 25th medal of Long’s career, and the 14th of the golden variety. The United States star won the event for the fourth straight Paralympics, complementing prior victories in 2008, 2012 and 2016. Long easily bested the field in her latest triumph. She touched the wall in 2:41.49, which was six seconds faster than the 2:47.86 of Italy’s Xenia Palazzo. The bronze medal went to Mariia Pavlova of Russia, who checked in at 2:48.63.

Day five men: Israel’s Mark Malyar continued his record-breaking ways on the fifth night of finals at the Paralympic Games in Tokyo. Coming off a world record in the 200-meter individual medley, Malyar produced a global standard in the 400 freestyle, as he easily outdistanced the competition. Malyar was the reigning world champ and favorite in the event. In his latest world-record performance, Malyar registered a time of 4:31.06, which bettered his previous mark by more than two seconds. Malyar had a lead of more than four seconds by the midway point of the race and prevailed by 4.50 seconds over the Ukraine’s Andrii Trusov, who went 4:35.56 for the silver medal. The bronze medal was won by American Evan Austin in 4:38.95.

Japan’s Naohide Yamaguchi claimed a gold medal and world record on home soil when he bested the competition in the SB14 100 breaststroke. Yamaguchi covered his two laps in 1:03.77, which got him to the wall ahead of Australia’s Jake Michel (1:04.28). Meanwhile, another world record was set by Dmitrii Cherniaev of Russia in the SB4 100 breaststroke, as he clocked in at 1:31.96.

Day five women: Already a highly accomplished Paralympian, the United States’ McKenzie Coan added to her legacy on Sunday when she collected another gold medal at the Paralympic Games. Racing at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre, Coan repeated as the champion of the S7 400-meter freestyle. Coan was the gold medalist in the event at the 2016 Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro. Coan, who has been based at the Olympic and Paralympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, covered her eight laps in 5:05.84 to edge silver medalist Giulia Terzi of Italy, who was timed in 5:06.32.

The Week That Was #3: New York Breakers Swimmer Tests Positive for COVID-19

Brandon Almeida (photo: Mike Lewis) - ISL

Brandon Almeida of the New York Breakers: Photo Courtesy: Mike Lewis / ISL

By John Lohn

The International Swimming League (ISL) opened its third season this week with two exciting matches, but there was equally big news out of the pool in Naples, Italy, as a member of the New York Breakers tested positive for COVID-19. Due to the positive test, and at the direction of Italian health officials, team members and support staff were placed in individual quarantine.

The identity of the swimmer was not been public and the ISL indicated that the positive result was the only one out of 300 tests conducted in Naples, which is the host city for the league’s regular season. Members of the Breakers remained in isolation until Saturday, when all other athletes returned negative tests and were allowed to compete during the team’s season opener against the Cali Condors, L.A. Current and Tokyo Frog Kings. The Breakers ended up finishing fourth in their first meet of the season.

#4: USA Swimming Announced 2021-2022 Event Calendar, Trials in Greensboro in April


USA Swimming has announced its calendar of major events for the next 12 months, including several stops along the TYR Pro Swim Series, a U.S. Open in December and two Winter Junior Nationals, but most anticipated was the news that the Phillips 66 International Team Trials will take place April 26-30 in Greensboro, N.C., with top performers earning qualification for the FINA World Championships in Fukuoka, Japan, in May. The Worlds were rescheduled from 2021 when the Olympics were postponed one year.

The Greensboro meet is the highlight on the calendar, while Pro Swim Series stops on the docket include Knoxville (January), Des Moines (early March), San Antonio (late March) and Mission Viejo (June). Summer Nationals and Junior Nationals will be in Irvine, Calif., as those meets were in 2006, 2010, 2014 and 2018.

“Our goal is to provide impactful competitive opportunities for our members,” USA Swimming President & CEO Tim Hinchey III said. “We are investing in quality competitions for our athletes and striving to provide a top domestic calendar. We will remain fluid in our planning, to ensure we are hosting the best events in the safest possible manner.”

The Week That Was #5: 2016 Olympic Gold Medalist Kosuke Hagino Retiring from Swimming


Kosuke Hagino — Photo Courtesy: Mine Kasapoglu / ISL

By David Rieder

Japan’s Kosuke Hagino, the last male swimmer from the country to capture individual Olympic gold in swimming, will retire following his third Olympic appearance, this one in his home country, last month. Hagino, 27, was the Olympic gold medalist in the 400 IM and silver medalist in the 200 IM at the 2016 Olympics in Rio. According to Kyodo News, Hagino has told his team of his decision, and he is considering attending graduate school.

Hagino finished sixth in the 200 IM at the Tokyo Olympics, ending up more than a second outside of the medal chase. He decided long beforehand not to attempt a defense of his 400 IM gold medal, leaving that event for countryman and three-time world champion Daiya Seto to try to pursue a second straight Japanese gold, but Seto finished a shocking ninth in the event.