2020 INTERNATIONAL SWIMMING LEAGUE – Semifinal #1
- Saturday, November 14: 12:00 PM-2:00 PM CET (6 AM-8 AM U.S. Eastern, 8 PM-10PM J+1 Japan)
- Sunday, November 15: 12:00 PM-2:00 PM CET (6 AM-8 AM U.S. Eastern, 8 PM-10PM J+1 Japan)
- Duna Arena – Budapest, Hungary
- Short Course Meters (SCM) format
- ISL Technical Handbook
- 2020 ISL Scoring Format
- 2020 ISL Prize Money and Bonuses
- How To Watch
- Teams: Energy Standard / London Roar / Tokyo Frog Kings / NY Breakers
- Omega Results
The International Swimming League’s 2020 postseason starts tomorrow, with the top two teams in each semifinal making the league finale. Here are four storylines we’re watching in semifinal #1:
Intrigue of the Skins Choices
In contrast to the second semifinal where the top medley relay teams and their likely skins choices are pretty easy to predict, this semi should have a lot of drama circling both the medley relays and their prize: the choice of stroke for the skin races.
Energy Standard leads the league in both the women’s and men’s medley relays this year. But London is third in the league in both. Here’s a look at the season-best medley relay times for the four teams in this semifinal:
Women’s Medley Relay
- Energy Standard – 3:46.95
- London Roar – 3:47.85
- Tokyo Frog Kings – 3:50.41
- NY Breakers – 3:51.30
Men’s Medley Relay
- Energy Standard – 3:20.68
- London Roar – 3:21.59
- Tokyo Frog Kings – 3:22.58
- NY Breakers – 3:25.76
So while Energy should be favored to win both, the margins are close enough that a London win wouldn’t be a shock. And whichever team wins will have potentially tough choices for the skin strokes.
Energy has a pretty good roster across all four strokes of skins. We’ve seen them pick women’s freestyle twice, and that probably aligns best with London’s weakness. But we could also see Energy look at butterfly, where they have two of the top five performers league-wide this year in Sarah Sjostrom and Maddy Banic.
Energy has won three men’s medley relays this year and picked three different strokes: free, breast, and fly. In this specific matchup, free and fly probably take advantage of London’s biggest weaknesses.
London, meanwhile, is very strong in women’s backstroke, but so is Energy. And London has a top women’s breaststroker in Alia Atkinson (a skins winner this year), but she would have to face Energy’s standout Benedetta Pilato. London’s men’s backstrokers were their early standouts, but Energy is also loaded in backstroke, so Adam Peaty in the breaststroke might be the best option.
No matter how you slice it, the skin stroke selections should give us a lot of insight into what strokes each team really wants to prioritize – and with both Energy and London expected to move on to the final, that info will be big in predicting the final.
Battle of the Backstrokers
We mentioned it above, but this semifinal promises a stellar men’s backstroke showdown.
Energy is loaded in men’s backstroke, with three short course world champs on the roster: Evgeny Rylov, Kliment Kolesnikov, and Matt Grevers. But London has also been a powerhouse in the backstrokes, with Christian Diener and Guilherme Guido both sitting inside the top 5 in the league this year in a back event with a skins 1-2 on their combined resume.
We’re guaranteed four great showdowns: the 200 back, 50 back and medley relay leadoff leg on day 1 and the individual 100 back on day 1. If we’re lucky, we’ll get a ‘Game 5’ type decider with a men’s backstroke skin race on Sunday.
Can Anybody Stop the Tokyo IMers?
The expansion Tokyo Frog Kings have staked their claim on the league’s IM rankings. Kosuke Hagino hasn’t lost a 400 IM in four career ISL meets, and holds the league’s fastest time by more than two seconds. Yui Ohashi hasn’t lost a 400 IM on the women’s side and is the fastest active swimmer in the league after Melanie Margalis withdrew.
But they’ll face perhaps their toughest tests this week. Ohashi faces London’s Sydney Pickrem, whose season-best is just 0.4 seconds behind Ohashi’s. And Hagino gets to face three of the four swimmers closest to him in the league ranks: NY’s Brandonn Almeida and Energy Standard duo Max Litchfield and Max Stupin.
Who Gets Fly Spots For Energy Standard?
The reigning league champs have an embarrassment of riches on their roster, highlighted by the #1, #2, and #3 performers this year in the women’s 100 fly. Sarah Sjostrom tied the league record in a win last week. But while she was out with back pain, Anastasiya Shkurdai rose to #2 in the league ranks and Maddy Banic to #3.
Only two of the three can swim the 50 fly and 100 fly. Energy will have to make the right choices for those events, while also giving each athlete enough rest for their other events. Sjostrom, in particular, is one of the team’s top freestylers and 100 IMers.