The Week That Was: ISL Season One Concludes in Las Vegas

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Energy Standard take a dip - Photo Courtesy: Gian Mattia D'Alberto/LaPresse

The Week That Was sponsored by Suitmate.

The first season of the International Swimming League came to a close over the weekend with Energy Standard taking the team title, Sarah Sjostrom winning the season MVP, and Daiya Seto and Caeleb Dressel breaking individual world records. The league also announced the addition of two new teams for next season as Olympic legend Kosuke Kitajima will be the general manager of the Tokyo-based team.

Read below the five biggest stories in the Week That Was sponsored by Suitmate.

The Week That Was #5: Tokyo, Toronto to Add ISL Teams in Season Two

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Kosuke Kitajima (left) will lead the Tokyo ISL team. Photo Courtesy: FABIO FERRARI / LaPresse

By Liz Byrnes, Europe Correspondent

Four-time Olympic champion Kosuke Kitajima is the latest swimming luminary to endorse the International Swimming League with the news that he will front a Tokyo team in next season’s competition.

Tokyo and Toronto, Canada, were unveiled as the two new franchises who have yet to be named that will compete in the ISL in the 2020-2021 season at a media conference following the inaugural grand finale won by Energy Standard at the Mandalay Bay Event Center in Las Vegas.

Tokyo will take their place alongside the European teams of Energy Standard, London Roar, Team Iron and Aqua Centurions.

Toronto – who will be led by Global Swim Series founder Robert Kent – will join the US-based quartet of Cali Condors, LA Current, DC Trident and NY Breakers.

The season will comprise 27 matches – regular season, play-offs and final – taking place between September and April with windows for the World Short-Course Championships in Abu Dhabi in December 2020 and trials season in March 2021 ahead of the World Championships in Fukuoka, Japan.

Kitajima, of Japan, is the only man to have won the Olympic breaststroke double-double, claiming back-to-back 100m and 200m titles at Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008 and retired with seven medals across four Games.

Kitajima said:

“I am delighted and truly excited to be part of elevating the value of the sport of swimming in a global context. The opportunity for swimmers to succeed in the professional arena is something that most of us have only dreamed about.

“The ISL will make it possible for swimmers and their coaches to highlight their talent throughout the year in a global arena and inspire children to pursue the sport.’’

#4: Roland Matthes, Greatest Backstroker of All-Time, Passes Away

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Roland Matthes in 1968. Photo Courtesy: International Swimming Hall of Fame Archive (ISHOF)

By Craig Lord, Swimming World Editor-in-Chief

Roland Matthes, the most decorated backstroke ace in history, the G.OA.T. of the stroke, died on Friday in Wertheim, Baden-Württemberg, after a short, severe illness. He was 69.

His wife Daniela confirmed the sad news to the German press agency DPA at the weekend and the German swimming federation (DSV) has issued a short statement.

Matthes, from Erfurt, became the most successful German swimmer in history and remains the most successful backstroke swimmer ever when he collected the fourth of his Olympic gold medals over 100 and 200m at Munich 1972 four years after the same outcome at Mexico 1968.

With his swansong Olympics in 1976, Matthes claimed a total of four gold, two silver and a bronze over three Games. In 21 years, the 21-time world record holder (16 of the standards on backstroke, 7 over 100m, 9 over 200m) was unbeaten on backstroke. Pat Besford, the British doyenne of swimming journalists in her day dubbed the protégé of coach Marlies Grohe-Geissler the “Rolls-Royce of Swimming” because of the smoothness and elegance of Matthes’ ahead-of-his-time technique.

The Week That Was #3: Rikako Ikee Discharged From Hospital After Fight With Leukemia

By Andy Ross

19-year-old Japanese superstar Rikako Ikee was released from the hospital this week after a long fight with leukemia, the Japanese champion announced via her website.

Ikee was diagnosed with leukemia in February 2019 and was forced out of the water this year to fight the disease after coming off a wildly successful 2018 where she was the most decorated athlete at the Asian Games. She also won the 100 butterfly at the Pan Pacific Championships with the fastest time in the world for 2018. Coming into 2019, she would have been a favorite in the 100 butterfly against the likes of Sarah SjostromKelsi Dahlia and Emma McKeon.

Rikako Ikee said in her note to her fans that she has the goal of participating in the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris in less than five years. After missing nearly an entire year of training, a spot on the Tokyo team for a home Olympics in 2020 would be highly unlikely. And even if she were to get on the Japanese team, the chances of her medalling would be slim.

Ikee will be just past her 24th birthday by the time the Paris Olympics roll around in 2024.

#2: Daiya Seto, Caeleb Dressel Set World Records

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Photo Courtesy: Gian Mattia D’Alberto/LaPresse

By Craig Lord, Swimming World Editor-in-Chief

The first five races of the first Final Match in International Swimming League Pro-Team history saw Cali Condors‘ aces soar to a High Five in five.

Then came the first Japanese and Asian man to enter League waters. The debut of Daiya Seto was full of spark for Energy: World record, 3:54.81,  smoke off the water, Ryan Lochte‘s 3:55.50 nine-year-old standard sunk at last, the first sub-3:55 in the pantheon.

Seto did not clip the Condor’s wings for long (though Energy would indeed finish a touch ahead on points at half-time in this two-day season showdown of a match): Caeleb Dressel made it two League World records for the men: a dominant 20.24 in the 50m freestyle not only shaved 0.02sec off the previous standard but beat the previous holder, too, Energy’s Florent Manaudou, the 2012 Olympic champion who claimed silver in 2016, home in time to see the fist-pump of the new fastest sprinter in history.

The Week That Was #1: Energy Standard Takes First Season of ISL

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Sarah Sjostrom helped Energy Standard win the first ISL Championship as she won the season MVP award. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

By Andy Ross

The final day of the inaugural season of the International Swimming League (ISL) came down to a thrilling finish as Energy Standard came out on top with 453.5 points to edge the London Roar with 444 points. American teams Cali Condors (415.5) and LA Current (318) finished in third and fourth.

The London Roar took six events on the day and looked to be in control heading into the Skins as they were leading for the majority of the day. But they were surpassed by Energy Standard because Florent Manaudou was able to get to round three of the men’s Skins race and Ben Proud was able to get round two while the Roar had no swimmers advance out of the first round. Energy Standard had been sitting in second or third for the majority of the day in a battle with Cali Condors, but all four of their Skins swimmers advanced to the second round, providing huge points for the team.

Sarah Sjostrom was named the season MVP for the inaugural ISL as she helped propel Energy Standard to the first ever ISL team title.