With the International Swimming League wrapping up its inaugural season over the weekend, we’re releasing our first-ever All-ISL team, including the top performers of the first season.
First off, a few notes:
- ISL scoring heavily, heavily weighs the skins races. In the interest of keeping this list from being ten 50 freestylers, we’re not going to rate the skins quite so highly to give a broader picture of who performed well across events.
- This list is about ISL season performance. Because of that, swimmers who competed in multiple meets will be more highly-ranked, even if their one-meet ceiling wasn’t quite as high.
- In the same vein, the ISL format weighs heavily. This is far from a list of the best swimmers – there will be plenty of swimmers with longer international resumes and better name value who are left off this list. We’re looking specifically at how swimmers translated their skills into ISL team contributions.
The list is in no particular order:
Sarah Sjostrom, Energy Standard
The league MVP, top money-earner and the captain of the winning franchise, Sarah Sjostrom was just a workhorse. She dropped off a little as the season went, and didn’t have the single-event dominance of some other competitors, but Sjostrom carried a massive workload in every meet and showed up for all four ENS appearances. She had six events in every meet, and seven in the season opener. She also made the skins final in every meet, winning three of her four appearances, including arguably the meet-decider over Cate Campbell in Las Vegas.
Minna Atherton, London Roar
Arguably the breakout star of the ISL season, Australia’s Minna Atherton embodies how London was able to consistently win in Group B, even with many of its top names absent in the early goings of the season. Atherton broke the league’s first world record and swept the backstrokes in both Group B matches and the Euro Derby, before winning one of the three in Las Vegas for the league finale.
Caeleb Dressel, Cali Condors
The skins master himself, Caeleb Dressel was the only swimmer to go 4-for-4 this season in the hugely-valuable skin races. His mix of sheer speed, endurance and versatility made him a perfect fit for the ISL format, and he carried a Cali Condors team with some major roster deficiencies into the final, and had them in the hunt for the team points title for at least a brief run on Friday. He piled up 16 wins despite only swimming three ISL meets this year, and came within four points of the league MVP title despite swimming only 75% of the meets MVP Sjostrom did.
Ranomi Kromowidjojo, Iron
She was absent in the finale because of the relative strength of Europe’s franchises, but let’s not forget that Ranomi Kromowidjojo could have matched Dressel as a four-time skin champ, had Iron advanced. (And there’s an argument to be made that Iron was better than either of the American franchises that got into the final). Kromowidjojo won twice in Group B and also beat Sjostrom in the Euro Derby, which clearly had the tougher women’s sprint group. Kromowidjojo wasn’t spectacular in other events, but did carry a pretty heavy load for the sprint-thin Iron, swimming both fly and back during the season as well.
Lilly King, Cali Condors
Cali’s Lilly King was the only swimmer to sweep an entire stroke at all four ISL meets this year. King went 12-for-12 in the breaststrokes, dominating from the 50 (where her sheer speed makes her the clear-cut favorite) to the 200 (where she’s really had to work at her endurance to beat a bunch of rangy, 200 specialists). King was a difference-maker on medley relays for Cali as well, and led the team’s runaway best event discipline, women’s breaststroke.
Emma McKeon, London Roar
The do-everything star for London, Emma McKeon actually outproduced her better-known Australian teammates in the ISL format. McKeon came out of the gates on fire, taking seven wins and a skins runner-up spot in the season-opener for Group B. She ultimately compiled 13 wins across the season, and made the second round of skins in three of four appearances. McKeon’s range was what made her so valuable: she swam all three relays at each meet, and won events ranging from the 100 fly, 100 free and 200 free at various meets.
Vladimir Morozov, Iron
Another versatile sprinter, Vladimir Morozov carried the Iron men. Despite not making the finale, Morozov won two of his three skin races, taking second in his only loss. Morozov was also extraordinarily busy, swimming 6, 5, and 5 events in his three meets, respectively. Morozov not only won the 50 free, he also added season wins in the 50 breast and 100 free, plus key splits on just about every relay possible.
Chad le Clos, Energy Standard
Perhaps the unsung hero of the league champion Energy Standard, Chad le Clos was one of the most impactful non-skin swimmers in the league. The South African swam 28 total events across four meets, averaging seven events per appearance. His winningest meet was also his meet with the fewest appearances, suggesting that perhaps his individual performances suffered some as he took on more and more swims to help his team. Le Clos won 5 events in the season opener, and ended the season with a dozen event wins, relays included. He was the MVP of the Euro Derby, swimming a whopping 8 events, and he very nearly swept the 200 fly races all season, only falling short with a third-place finish in the finale. He finished 4th overall in MVP points for the season.
Katinka Hosszu, Iron
Katinka Hosszu was another swimmer who didn’t make the league finale, but had plenty of impact in her regular-season appearances. The MVP of the Budapest match with 7 events and 3 wins, Hosszu was right in the conversation for most valuable non-skins athlete in the league. The Iron captain swept the 200 and 400 IMs in all three of her appearances, and also swept the 200 flys. Hosszu also took on a lot of brutal events – where most of the other multi-event swimmers were competing in 50s and 100s, Hosszu was almost entirely swimming 200s and 400s in her 19 swims this season.
Florent Manaudou, Energy Standard
A 29-year-old swimmer who was effectively out of the sport for two years prior to 2019, Florent Manaudou carried a surprisingly heavy load for the league champion Energy Standard this season. The pure sprinter swam 50s of all four strokes, compiling six wins over the course of the season. That included a skin event win in the season opener, and though he was displaced by Dressel later on, Manaudou still managed to be second in his three remaining skin races behind Dressel twice and Morozov once. Energy Standard really won the league title based on its relays, and Manaudou consistently showed up with good splits in the men’s free relay. He also added a 50 fly win and three more top-3 finishes in that event, plus a 50 breast showing and a pair of top-2 finishes in the 50 back.
Second Team All-ISL:
- Beryl Gastaldello, LA Current
- Melanie Margalis, Cali Condors
- Guilherme Guido, London Roar
- Adam Peaty, London Roar
- Olivia Smoliga, Cali Condors
- Cate Campbell, London Roar
- Tom Shields, LA Current
- Daiya Seto, Energy Standard
- Kelsi Dahlia, Cali Condors
- Siobhan Haughey, DC Trident