2020 BREAKOUT FEMALE SWIMMER OF THE YEAR: KASIA WASICK, POLAND
Kasia Wasick is the slightly unconventional recipient of this year’s Female Breakout Swimmer of the Year. Wasick had a breakout year despite having already competed for Poland at three Olympic Games. Her 2020 breakout comes following a 2016 retirement and subsequent 2018 comeback. Wasick has wasted no time with her return, surging to the top of the world rankings in the 50 freestyle as 2nd fastest in the world this year and 7th fastest of all time.
Wasick’s Olympic debut was at the Beijing Games back in 2008 where she swam the 4×200 freestyle relay, contributing to Poland’s 15th place finish. Four years later, Wasick swam the 100 freestyle in London, missing the semi-final and placing 27th with a 56.13. She also raced the 4×200 freestyle there, finishing in 16th. At the most recent Games, Wasick again raced the 100 freestyle but dropped to 29th place with a 55.14 and finished 15th in the 4×100 freestyle.
Following the 2016 Olympics, Wasick retired from the sport. Two years later, however, Wasick made a 2018 comeback as a masters swimmer and then in 2019 returned to the elite swimming scene when she signed with the Cali Condors in the first season of the International Swimming League. Wasick had a solid year with the Condors and wound up as #13 worldwide in the short course 50 freestyle.
Her 2020 performance, however, served as a display of Wasick’s longevity in the sport and was a true post-retirement breakout year. Wasick switched from the Cali Condors to the New York Breakers and was a key member of New York’s 2020 ISL squad.
Wasick’s first victory of the 2020 ISL season came at match 4 when she won the 50 freestyle in a 23.43, ahead of the Iron duo of Ranomi Kromowidjojo and Melanie Henique. She was back the next day to swim the 100 freestyle, coming second to Kromowidjojo’s 51.73 with a 51.22.
Wasick won the 50 freestyle again at New York’s next two regular-season matches, beating the likes of Femke Heemskerk, Michelle Coleman, and Anastasiya Shkurdai at match 6, and Maria Kameneva, Freya Anderson, and Olivia Smoliga at match 8.
Wasick nearly made it 4-for-4 wins in the 50 free this season with a 23.43 at semi-final #1 but finished 0.06 seconds behind victor Sarah Sjostrom’s 23.49. Despite a loss to Sjostrom and the fact that New York failed to qualify for the finals, Wasick closed out the 2020 season with the fastest 50 freestyle in the league.
Her 23.30 from match 6 was the quickest time swum by any woman in the ISL this season:
2020 ISL Top 5 50 Freestyle Performers (SCM)
- Kasia Wasick – 23.30 (Match 6)
- Ranomi Kromowidjojo – 23.37 (Semi-final 2)
- Sarah Sjostrom – 23.41 (Match 7)
- Abbey Weitzeil – 23.45 (Match 10)
- Melanie Henique – 23.61 (Match 9)
Wasick’s time also topped the overall world rankings for 2020 up until Ranomi Kromowidjojo dipped under her 23.30 with a 23.05 at the Wouda Cup earlier this month.
Not only did Wasick’s 23.30 allow her to shoot to the top of the 2020 world rankings; they also gave her a spot as the #6 all-time performer in the event. With her swim, she passed Hinkelien Schreuder’s 23.32 from 2009.
All-time 50 Freestyle Performances (SCM)
- Ranomi Kromowidjojo – 22.93 (2017)
- Sarah Sjostrom – 23.00 (2017)
- Cate Campbell – 23.19 (2017)
- Marleen Veldhuis – 23.25 (2008)
- Therese Alshammar – 23.27 (2009)
- Kasia Wasick – 23.30 (2020)
- Hinkelien Schreuder – 23.32 (2009)
- Fran Halsall – 23.44 (2009)
While Wasick’s 50 freestyles were certainly her strong suit this year, she also delivered some solid 100 freestyles, earning three 2nd place 2 4th place finishes throughout the season.
Wasick’s 23.30 50 freestyle and season-best of 51.81 100 freestyle were both fast enough to lower the Polish records in the events.
Wasick closed out the season tied at #59 with Joe Litchfield in season MVP points, scoring a total of 112.50, The two also tied for #20 among those swimmers who only raced at 5 meets this season as opposed to the maximum of 6.
While her short course season yielded the majority of her best results in 2020, Wasick got the chance sneak in a 24.58 50 freestyle back in March to earn #7 worldwide this year in the event:
Top 8 50 Freestyle Performers in 2020 (LCM)
- Liu Xiang – 24.03
- Sarah Sjostrom – 24.14
- Melanie Henique – 24.34
- Ranomi Kromowidjojo – 24.38
- Simone Manuel – 24.56
- Erika Brown – 24.57
- Kasia Wasick – 24.58
- Valeria van Roon – 24.63
Wasick’s breakout performance in 2020 served as a solid launching point for her comeback career and we will get the chance to see where she stands come next summer. Wasick is set to race at her fourth Olympic Games in at Tokyo 2020, slated to deliver her Olympic debut in the 50 freestyle.
In no particular order
- Maddy Banic — Maddy Banic spent her entire first ISL season and the beginning of her second season as a rather unknown name in the league. The former Tennessee swimmer debuted as a member of the LA Current in 2019 and made the switch to Energy Standard for 2020. When teammate Sarah Sjostrom suffered a back injury, Banic subbed in for ENS as Anastasiya Shrkurdai’s butterfly partner. Banic was an immediate hit for the team, winning the 50 fly at match 6 and coming 2nd to Shkurdai in the 100 fly. At Energy Standard’s semi-final, she made it to the final round of the butterfly skins event, losing only to teammate Sjostrom. Banic wrapped the season with a second place finish in the individual 50 fly with a time of 24.80 for a new American record.
- Abbie Wood — Abbie Wood was one of New York Breakers’ shining stars this season, taking on a heavy event load at each of the team’s 5 meets. Wood swam the 100/200/400 triple and each of her matches this season, repeated scoring within the top 3 in each event throughout the season. Wood finished the season with a new British record in the 200 IM with her season-leading time of 2:04.77, breaking Siobhan-Marie O’Connor’s 2:05.13 mark from 2015. Despite not hitting the British records in the 100 or 400, Wood ended 2020 as the country’s fastest in both with a 58.16 and 4:25.65, respectively.