2021 ISL Final: Energy Standard Gets Huge Momentum Swing With Cali Relay DQ

2021 INTERNATIONAL SWIMMING LEAGUE – SEASON 3, MATCH 18 – LEAGUE FINAL

Braden Keith contributed to this report.

It’s certainly not a surprise to see Energy Standard leading the ISL Final standings after the opening day of competition, but the road we took to get there was an unexpected one.

Despite Caeleb Dressel not being on top form, everything else was seemingly going right for the Condors, as they compiled seven wins across the first 14 events. This included Kelsi Dahlia breaking a seven-year-old world record in the women’s 100 butterfly in the opening race of the meet, and Nic Fink producing a pair of upset wins in the men’s breaststroke events over Energy Standard’s Ilya Shymanovich.

Then came the women’s 400 medley relay.

The match was close coming into the event, with Cali up by nine points on Energy, but the Condors appeared to extend that advantage by a wide margin by winning the race with a big jackpot.

But shortly after the race it was revealed that Cali had been disqualified due to a non-simultaneous touch by Lilly King on the breaststroke leg, which had huge ramifications on the overall standings.

Energy Standard ended up scoring 38 points after they were awarded the victory and exited the race leading by 23 points. Had Cali not been disqualified, they would’ve been leading by 27 after the race— a 50-point swing.

Despite the setback, the Cali men carried on undeterred in the men’s medley relay, earning the victory in a new American Record of 3:19.64.

The all-U.S. team of Coleman Stewart (49.62), Nic Fink (55.21), Caeleb Dressel (49.01) and Justin Ress (45.80) managed to erase the previous American Record of 3:19.98, set at the 2018 SC World Championships.

With Energy Standard scoring both their ‘A’ and ‘B’ relays, they only gave up two points to the Condors in the event, exiting the day leading by 21.

Match Standings – Thru Day 1

  1. Energy Standard, 271.0
  2. Cali Condors, 250.0
  3. London Roar, 206.0
  4. LA Current, 171.0

London Feeling Toussaint’s Absence

With Kira Toussaint, London’s top female scorer this season and the 16th-highest point-getter league-wide, out of the match with a non-COVID-related illness, the Roar had to fill in the gaps as best they could on women’s backstroke.

London scored nine combined points across the women’s 50 and 200 back, while Toussaint would’ve been a near-lock to win the 50 and a likely top-three finisher in the 200. Emma McKeon was thrown into the 50 back, getting jackpotted in eighth, and Katie Shanahan also scored zero points in the 200 back.

Additionally, the Roar finished just over three-tenths back of Energy Standard’s winning team (after Cali’s DQ) in the women’s 400 medley relay, with Minna Atherton leading off in 57.23 on the backstroke leg.

All they would’ve needed is Toussaint going 56.9 or better—she was 55.45 individually in the fourth playoff match—and they would’ve earned the win and had a 32-point swing with Energy Standard, keeping them more in the thick of the team battle than they currently are.

Skins Picks

Women

  • LA Current – Eliminate Fly
  • London Roar – Eliminate Free
  • Energy Standard  – Chooses Backstroke over Breaststroke

This one went about the way you might expect it to go. Teams steered well-clear of Energy Standard’s Sarah Sjostrom, who has major jackpot potential in the skins races, and Cali Condor’s Kelsi Dahlia, who is swimming as well as anybody at this match. LA Current and London Roar, by cutting those two strokes, have eliminated the two stars of this session so far.

That left Energy Standard with a pretty straightforward choice, if not an ideal one: choosing backstroke over breaststroke.

Anastasiya Shkurdai was 2nd in the 50 back, .04 seconds behind Ingrid Wilm of the LA Current. LA is not a threat to Energy Standard in the team battle. Cali’s Maaike de Waard was 3rd in the 50 back in 26.28.

Wilm also reportedly a hand injury during Day 1, which makes the decision an even better one for Energy Standard.

As compared to breaststroke, where Energy’s Benedetta Pilato was 3rd in the individual event behind Cali’s Lilly King and London’s Alia Atkinson, two swimmers who are really good in skins, the backstroke is a better choice for Energy. Even if de Waard beats out Shkurdai (she was only .03 seconds behind individually), de Waard won’t go for huge Jackpot points there, which neutralizes any possibility of a big Cali comeback.

The only other way this could have gone is London could have left Energy the option of freestyle, and really could have forced their hand into it by eliminating backstroke, with the hope that Emma McKeon swims well and wins. That may have been a tactical error by Steven Tigg, because Energy Standard coach Tom Rushton was never going to choose to go up against Alia Atkinson and Lilly King in a breaststroke skins event. No, the backstroke isn’t Energy’s best skins race, but it’s a much better option for them with Anastasiya Shkurdai against a pretty soft field than breaststroke is with Pilato against a very, very good breaststroke field.

London has very little chance without Kira Toussaint in the backstroke skins race, but they had a chance with Emma McKeon in the freestyle skins race.

Men

  • London Roar – Eliminate Breaststroke
  • Energy Standard – Eliminate Freestyle
  • Cali Condors – Chooses Fly over Backstroke

London’s choice was straightforward: get rid of Nic Fink, Ilya Shymanovich, and Felipe Lima, with huge Jackpot potential, from the choices. Energy Standard’s choice was more tactical: they eliminated the 50 free, in spite of a Ben Proud win by .56 seconds in the individual event. While Proud is great in a 50, he hasn’t historically been as good across three 50s, and with Kyle Chalmers and maybe even Caeleb Dressel (who didn’t swim the individual event) lurking, they didn’t want to take that chance of pushing big points to their biggest rivals.

That left Cali with the choice between the 50 backstroke and the 50 fly. Neither was a great choice for Cali – but ultimately they decided to shy away from Ryan Murphy of the LA Current, who is very good in skins and very good at Jackpotting points in skins, in favor of fly.

No, Caeleb Dressel hasn’t been at his best as of late. But, in the skins format, he’s been so good, that even at less than his top form he might still win. In either case, the biggest downside in that race is again LA Current and Tom Shields, who won the 100 fly on Friday, but whose team is not a big threat. The next-biggest threat is maybe Vini Lanza of London, who has won a butterfly skins race already this season, and then Chad le Clos, who like Shields is a bigger threat if he survives the first round (he too has won a butterfly skins race this season).

It was a tough choice for Cali, who is really skins-proof when Dressel is firing but gets thin when he’s not. Ultimately, they probably made the right choice, though there’s still some gamble in play.

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Sub13
1 month ago

It was not a tactical error for Roar to eliminate free. Minna Atherton has been better in skins than Kira anyway, and Sjostrom is basically guaranteed to win the free skins. Roar forced an option that Energy is the weakest in when Energy is winning. Roar could have gone free to hope Cali fails and snatch second, but I would rather them still be going for 1st even if they can’t actually win it. I think trying to weaken the second team so you cba hopefully sneak second isn’t in the spirit of conpetition.

You say Lanza is a big threat because he’s on a fly skins before but I doubt he’ll swim it. Kyle and Dylan are Roar’s fastest… Read more »

Verram
1 month ago

Fancy that London eliminating breaststroke for mens skins..

i think the ISL season is just too long and too complicated to keep up with for 3 months.. they need a shorter sharper season

london roar need to fix their team lineup next year as they would be lucky not to come last in the finals given how many swimmers they have missing especially in mens breastroke

Sub13
Reply to  Verram
1 month ago

Peaty, Prigoda and Campbell are all unfortunate losses but were (to varying degrees) foreseen previously. Kira getting sick on the day of the final was bad luck, and Incerti randomly disappearing from the start list after the meet had started is also bizarre. If they retained the same 15 swimmers next year (Atkinson is retiring so they will desperately need a new female breast) and everyone actually showed up they would be the favourites to win.

Verram
Reply to  Sub13
1 month ago

Yes I think london can’t just rely on one swimmer though (peaty) so they need to invest in a really good male breaststroke star so I’d suggest they steal Arno Kamminga at least he’s decent at all three distances

As a london roar fan I’ve pretty much conceded this season to either condors or energy which is a shame given all that is lacking with london roar

I just think the isl season is just too long for swimmers to maintain the same level throughout ., even the great Caeleb dressel was rested a couple of times during the season but london didn’t really have that luxury this season

Troyy
Reply to  Verram
1 month ago

There’s nothing wrong with the Peaty and Prigoda duo when they actually available. Peaty would have got third in that 200 breast final with his time from the final last year (and Prigoda would’ve won). They’re probably the best duo across all distances in the league when in form and tapered.

Verram
Reply to  Troyy
1 month ago

Well like I said I’ve written off this isl season for the london roar since peaty and Prigods didn’t show up .. who’s to say they’re guaranteed to show up next season though ??

Troyy
Reply to  Verram
1 month ago

As a side note 15 yo Olivia Wunsch just set a new PB in the 50 free at a NSW qualifying meet: 25.38

Sub13
Reply to  Troyy
1 month ago

Cool. Do you have a link to the results?

Troyy
Reply to  Sub13
1 month ago

Only on Meet Mobile. I’m curious about her 100 now but of course she’s not entered in that …

Verram
Reply to  Troyy
1 month ago

Good to see new young sprinters come through .. we need the next gen to step up for Paris 2024

Sub13
Reply to  Verram
1 month ago

They’re not. But hopefully if they don’t plan to swim next season they’ll say so in advance. I don’t see the point in trying to poach different breaststrokers when we have world class ones already in the team.

To be honest I will be surprised if ISL is around next season, and if it is I hope the teams get shuffled around a lot to create more parity.

Uncle
1 month ago

It should be noted though that Cali is still better off with backstroke. How can it be forgotten that they have Smoliga and Nelson to use if they don’t go with De Waard. Skurdai making round 3 is probably highly doubtful.

Men side, London may use Carter and Chalmers, even though this may hurt their MMR if Chalmers isn’t in it. But this is the Finals, gotta put everything on the line.

Troyy
Reply to  Uncle
1 month ago

They’ll probably use Wattel and Lanza in the MMR but they’re really hurt by missing Campbell.

The A team seems pretty straight forward with:

  • Guido Murdoch Wattel McKeon

None of the options for B team are particularly desirable:

  • Diener Atkinson Lanza Busch – Weak free, female breast
  • Atherton Atkinson Lanza Nakamura – First two legs female and Atherton only went 57.2 today
  • Diener Atkinson Busch Nakamura – Weak fly, female breast

I won’t even bother with Williamson after that 58.6 split today.

Last edited 1 month ago by Troyy
Sub13
Reply to  Troyy
1 month ago

Atherton is our only shot at skins, and she swam pretty poorly today. No way they put her in MMR.

Sub13
Reply to  Uncle
1 month ago

Chalmers doesn’t swim the MMR because it’s immediately after 200 free. He hasn’t swum it since before he took over the 200. Also he doesn’t fit into the A MMR team anywhere. Women’s back skins so we’ll have two male backstrokers, and him in free means a female breast leg.

Troyy
Reply to  Sub13
1 month ago

Maybe Toussaint will make a miraculous recovery overnight ready for skins.

Sub13
Reply to  Troyy
1 month ago

She apparently has been tested for Covid which makes me think it’s cold or flu and that probably won’t disappear overnight

Braden Keith(@braden)
Admin
Reply to  Sub13
1 month ago

True. On the other hand, based on Dressel’s presence on deck when he had a cold last week, cold and flu don’t come with the same isolation protocols.

But, when we spoke to her, she didn’t seem to think that was in the cards.

Sub13
Reply to  Braden Keith
1 month ago

Yeah I’m definitely not expecting her to rock up tomorrow. They can’t win anyway so I’d rather she not push herself and risk it getting worse.

Troyy
Reply to  Sub13
1 month ago

Also I doubt Chalmers can do both the 200 and skins and he’s probably more useful in the 200.

Sub13
Reply to  Troyy
1 month ago

He only has the 100 and 200 on day 2, surely he can handle 3 swims? The 200 is a full half hour+ before male skins (MMR, W400IM, M100IM, W skins) so I think he should be fine.

However, Carter should be relatively fresh for it with the 100 free and 50 fly. Lanza has the 200 fly as well and possibly MMR. So whoever goes in for London isn’t going to be fully fresh no matter what.

Kelsey
1 month ago

Zac Incerti is also moving to Marion. Peter Bishop is going to have quite a squad there. Wonder if he made that decision after being on London Roar with Kyle the past few months.

Last edited 1 month ago by Kelsey
Verram
Reply to  Kelsey
1 month ago

Maybe he’s dating Kyle Chalmers lol

Sub13
Reply to  Verram
1 month ago

There’s rumours that Kyle is dating everyone.

But honestly if it came out that Kyle and Zac were dating I would love for it

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

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