2020 Swammy Awards: Male Breakout Swimmer of the Year – Emre Sakci

To see all of the 2020 award winners, click here.


The 2020 Male Breakout Swimmer of the Year Swammy award goes to Turkish native and member of team Iron, Emre Sakci. Sakci raced his way during the 2020 International Swimming League season from being a particularly unknown swimmer to being one of the world’s leading sprint breakststrokers.

During the 2020 ISL regular season, Sakci quickly established himself as a key asset for Iron.

Sakci’s first ISL race of the season was in the 50 breast at match 2 in which he finished a full 0.32 seconds ahead of British breaststroke all-star Adam Peaty. Sakci’s 25.74 was quick enough to earn the top spot and steal points from 7th and 8th place finishers, Ian Finnerty and Ross Murdoch.

For those who are unfamiliar with how ISL scoring works, if the top finisher in an event out touches another swimmer by the race-specific “jackpot margin”, they steal all points earned by that swimmer.

Sakci picked up 12 points total with his match 2 victory (9 points for first place, 2 points from Finnerty, and 1 point from Murdoch). He then went on to win the 50 breast at match 4, match 7, and match 9, each time collecting 24 points for team Iron. That means that he not only won that races but he was fast enough to steal points from the 4th to 8th place finishers.

Sakci was not only an asset for Iron in the 50 breast, but he also raced the 100 breast at each of his first 4 meets, earning two first-place finishes, a second-place finish, and a third-place finish. His match 4 and match 9 victories including 15 and 19 point jackpots, respectively.

A third race where Sakci was needed by Iron was the skins race. The 3 round 50 eliminator draws both on one’s sprint ability and endurance; two things Sakci proved to have. He won both the match 4 and match 7 breaststroke skins races. At the former, he managed to defeat all-talented Cali Condor Caeleb Dressel and in the latter, Ilya Shymanovich of Energy Standard. Sakci went on to compete in a third skins race at match 9, this time in butterfly. Despite it not being his strongest stroke, he managed to stay in until the second round where he was knocked out by Chad le Clos and Takeshi Kawamoto.

Sakci’s strong performances in the individual and skins races yielded him some solid MVP rankings throughout the regular season. After a 16th place finish overall at match 2, he went on to come second to Dressel at match 4, win match 7, and then come third at match 9 behind le Clos and Sarah Sjostrom.

Sakci’s performance throughout the first 4 meets helped Iron earn a spot at semi-final 2. There, Sakci picked up his final 2 victories of the 2020 ISL season when he again dominated both the 50 and 100 breaststroke. In the 50, he swam a 25.54 and was the only swimmer to crack 26. Felipe Silva and Anton McKee followed with 26.02 and 26.49, respectively, as the only others in the race to score points. Sakci jackpotted the remaining 5, raking in a total of 24 points. In the 100 breaststroke, Sakci won again by swimming a 56.51 to Will Licon’s 57.01 for second and Felipe Silva’s 57.17.

Sakci finished in 9th place in MVP points at his final match of the season with 38 points total. Sakci ended the season as the 10th ranked swimmer overall with 231.50 total points. While a 10th place league finish is impressive as it stands, it becomes even more impressive upon considering that he only swam at 5 meets, compared to the majority of other top-10 swimmers who raced at 6.

Sakci closed the ISL season with new European records in both the breaststroke sprints. His season bests of 25.29 and 55.74 were each the fastest-ever swims by a European. The 50 mark remains as the European record in the event but Ilya Shymanovich managed to take back the 100 record at semi-final 1 with a 55.69, later lowering it to a 55.34 world record earlier this month.

Sakci will end 2020 with his name all over the top 10 rankings in the short course 50 and 100 breast both in 2020 and all-time:

Top 10 SCM 50 Breaststroke Performances (2020)

  1. Emre Sakci – 25.29
  2. Ilya Shymanovich – 25.39
  3. Ilya Shymanovich / Adam Peaty – 25.41
  4. Emre Sakci – 25.43
  5. Ilya Shymanovich / Adam Peaty – 25.48
  6. Kirill Prigoda – 25.49
  7. Adam Peaty / Adam Peaty / Emre Sakci – 25.50

Top 10 SCM 50 Breaststroke Performances (All-time)

  1. Cameron van der Burgh – 25.25 (2009)
  2. Emre Sakci – 25.29 (2020)
  3. Ilya Shymanovich – 25.29 (2020)
  4. Ilya Shymanovich / Adam Peaty / Cameron van der Burgh – 25.41 (2020/2020/2018)
  5. Emre Sakci / Cameron van der Burgh – 25.43 (2020 / 2009)
  6. Roland Schoeman – 25.45 (2009)
  7. Ilya Shymanovich – 25.48 (2020)

Top 10 SCM 100 Breaststroke Performances (All-time)

  1. Ilya Shymanovich – 55.34 (2020)
  2. Adam Peaty – 55.41 (2020)
  3. Ilya Shymanovich / Adam Peaty – 55.49 (2020 / 2020)
  4. Cameron van der Burgh – 55.61 (2009)
  5. Ilya Shymanovich – 55.69 (2020)
  6. Emre Sakci – 55.74 (2020)
  7. Ilya Shymanovich – 55.83 (2020)
  8. Ilya Shymanovich – 55.85 (2020)
  9. Ilya Shymanovich – 55.86 (2020)

Top 10 SCM 50 Breaststroke Performances (2020)

  1. Ilya Shymanovich – 55.34
  2. Adam Peaty – 55.41
  3. Ilya Shymanovich / Adam Peaty – 55.49
  4. Ilya Shymanovich – 55.69
  5. Emre Sakci – 55.83
  6. Ilya Shymanovich – 55.83
  7. Ilya Shymanovich – 55.85
  8. Ilya Shymanovich – 55.86
  9. Emre Sakci – 55.97


In no particular order

  • Kieran Smith – Before knowing that the 2020 NCAA Championships would be canceled due to COVID-19, Florida Gator Kieran Smith took full advantage of what would be his biggest meet of the 2019-2020; the 2020 SEC Championships. There, Smith became the fastest-ever American swimmer to race the 500 freestyle, throwing down a 4:06.32 in the event. That race was quick enough to break Townley Haas’ previous NCAA record by nearly 2 seconds and Zane Grothe’s  American Record by nearly a second. Smith also picked up gold at that meet in the 400 IM with a 3:37.31, and a 42.14 bronze in the 100 free, helping Florida to the 2020 SEC title.
  • Thomas Dean – One of Dean’s early breakout swims this year was in the long course 200 freestyle at the 2020 Edinburgh International swim meet where he hit a 1:46.03 to become the 4th fastest British swimmer in history. Without the postponement of the Olympics, Dean’s next chance to race on the international stage came with his representing the London Roar in the ISL. At semi-final 1, Dean threw down a 3:37.87 victory, out-touching Danas Rapsys by a mere 0.21 seconds. He repeated as 400 freestyle winner in the ISL final by again beating Rapsys and also taking down Townley Haas, Fernando Scheffer, and fellow Brit James Guy. Dean ended 2020 with a new best time of 3:36.56 in the short course 400 free, good enough for #2 in the world this year and #12 in history.

Previous Winners:

  • 2020 – Emre Sakci
  • 2019 – Andrei Minakov (RUS)
  • 2018 – James Wilby (GBR)
  • 2017 – Zane Grothe (USA)
  • 2016 – Masato Sakai (JPN)
  • 2015 – Mitch Larkin (AUS)
  • 2014 – Adam Peaty (GBR)

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7 months ago

He deserves it.

7 months ago

Totally agree. I had never even heard of his name before this year

7 months ago

I think that guys like Winnington, Sato or Kamminga also had major breakout seasons, but they were probably too well know already to be considered for this.

7 months ago

Can’t wait to see him kill it again next year

7 months ago

ISL is really causing the SCM all time rankings to be rarranged with how many racing opportunities it provides.