To see all of the 2020 award winners, click here.
2020 U.S. Female Swimmer of the Year: Lilly King
No woman in the International Swimming League (ISL) is more dominant than Lilly King. Though 2 of King’s 3-event win streaks were snapped during the 2020 ISL season she is still the most successful individual performer in the two years the league has existed with a total of 31 individual victories and only 3 individual losses.
Let’s break that down.
*This counts for the final heat of the skins races only and not the 1st and 2nd qualification rounds in which the top-4 and top-2 swimmers advance.
King was undefeated in all three breaststroke races during the 2019 ISL season and remained undefeated in 2020 in the 100 breast. Non-freestyle skins were introduced to the ISL lineup in 2020 and depending on the winner of the 400 medley relay they are not always breaststroke. However, every time King has had the opportunity to compete in the 50 breaststroke skins competition she has won the all-important 3rd and final heat.
King did not break any individual World Records in 2020, though she did climb the all-time ranks in each the 50, 100, and 200. With the ISL season complete, King ranks 2nd all-time in the 50 breaststroke, 3rd all-time in the 100 SCM breaststroke, and 4th all-time in the 200 SCM breaststroke. Among American performers, King lives up to her name and lowered the American Records in both the 50 breast (28.77) and 100 breast (1:02.50) in 2020. In fact, King broke the American Record twice in the 50 breaststroke during the ISL season. King also swam the fastest 200 breaststroke of any American woman since Rebecca Soni set the mark in 2009.
The all-American quartet of Olivia Smoliga, King, Kelsi Dahlia, and Erika Brown blasted a new World Record in the 400 medley relay in the ISL Grand Final, posting a 3:44.52. King delivered a 1:02.40 on the breaststroke, which is the fastest split of all time according to the USA Swimming database.
King finished the ISL season ranked 2nd among all swimmers in the MVP standings and left Budapest with $254,000 of prize money, 2nd only to Caeleb Dressel. King was named the MVP of Match 1, the 2nd MVP of 8, the 3rd MVP of Match Semifinal #2, and the 2nd MVP again of the Grand Final.
Further illustrating her sheer domination in breaststroke, King finished the season with a total of 102.5 jackpot points, the 3rd-highest in the league behind Dressel and LA’s Ryan Murphy. Smoliga ranked 2nd among all women in jackpot points with 61 points stolen from other swimmers.
In March, King put up a 1:05.74 in the 100 LCM breaststroke and a 2:22.95 in the 200 LCM breaststroke, finishing 2020 ranked 1st and 3rd in each event, respectively.
In no particular order.
- Olivia Smoliga: After King, Smoliga was the most important female swimmer for the Cali Condors in the 2020 season. Smoliga started off the ISL season with a near-World Record of 25.74 in the 50 backstroke, and would end the season with a win in the ISL Final in the 50 back in 25.83. Smoliga crushed her own American Record in the 100 SCM backstroke in the ISL Final clocking a 55.04, becoming the 3rd-fastest performer all-time and registering the 3rd-fastest performance all time. Smoliga also led off the Condors’ all-American 400 medley relay (55.60) which broke the World Record and gave the ‘Dors the right to choose the stroke of the 50 skins which Cali duo King and Hannis would dominate on day 2. Smoliga finished the ISL season ranked 6th in both season and match MVP standings. Smoliga ends 2020 ranked 11th in the world in the 100 LCM backstroke with a 59.25 from the Des Moines stop of the 2020 Pro Swim Series in March.
- Abbey Weitzeil: Weitzeil was a valuable addition to the LA Current in season 2 of the ISL and finished the season ranked 26th in the season MVP standings. In Match 10 of ISL season 2, Weitzeil set American Records in both the 50 freestyle (23.45) and 100 freestyle (51.26). As 2020 comes to a close, Weitzeil holds the 4th-fastest time in the world in the 50 free (23.45) and the 5th-fastest in the 100 free (51.26). Weitzeil had an impressive NCAA season before it was abruptly ended due to the coronavirus pandemic, though she was unable to finish the Pac-12 Championships due to an elbow injury. She did, however, win the 50 free at Pac-12s in 21.03, her 3rd-fastest performance ever.
- Regan Smith: Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Smith chose to take a gap year and defer her enrollment at Stanford until fall of 2021. Despite limited opportunities to race, Smith still ends the year ranked 2nd in the world in the 100 (58.18) and 200 (2:05.94) backstrokes, as well as 4th in the 200 fly (2:06.39) and 7th in the 100 fly (57.34). Smith’s butterfly times represent marked improvements over her previous lifetime bests and show that she will have a very solid shot of making the U.S. Olympic team in either event, if she decides to pursue them at the 2021 Trials.
- Katie Ledecky: We haven’t seen much of Ledecky in 2020, but what we did get to see of her in March was what you’d expect: world-class racing. At the Des Moines stop of the PSS, Ledecky posted a 1:54.49 in the 200 free, a 3:59.66 in the 400 free, and a 15:29.51 in the 1500 free. In November, Ledecky put up an 8:16.90 in the 800 free. The 400, 800, and 1500 are all the fastest performances in the world this year, and the 200 is the 2nd-fastest in the world this year, just 0.15 behind Siobhan Haughey. Though Ledecky chose not to compete in the second season of the ISL she did get a viral moment with her “got milk challenge” in August.