4 World Records, King Back on Top, And More From Day 1 of the 2020 ISL Final


Day 1 of the 2020 ISL Grand Final was explosive. Four new World Records as well as two World Bests, plus National and Continental Records for numerous other swimmers made it an exciting day, and there’s still one full day of racing to go on Sunday. The Cali Condors lead but Energy Standard are the defending champions and the men’s skins will be set in their favor, thanks to their victory in the 400 medley relay.

1. More World Records Than Any ISL Meet Before

Count ’em. This morning we witnessed 4 official World Records alone, plus two “World Bests,” and an entire day remains in the 2020 ISL Grand Final.

First, Caeleb Dressel demolished the World Record in the 100 butterfly, then he lowered his own fastest-ever mark in the 50 free. Dressel later took one more shot at a World Record in the 100 freestyle but fell short, instead lowering his American Record by 0.02 to a 45.18, also the fastest time ever in the 100 freestyle in the ISL’s short history.

The women from Energy Standard swam comfortably under the World Record in the women’s 4 x 100 freestyle relay, set by the Netherlands in 2014. Though the time will only be recorded as a “World Best” since each one of the swimmers represents a different nation in non-ISL international competition, the performance still represents the fastest time ever recorded by four women in a 4 x 100 freestyle relay. Femke Heemskerk, who swam third on the Energy Standard relay today and split a 51.29, was also on the 2014 Dutch relay where she swam in the second position and split a 50.58.

The Cali Condors’ women’s 400 medley relay later broke the World Record in that race, but this time it will be ratified as official since all four swimmers are Americans. First, Olivia Smoliga led off in a 55.60, nearing her American Record of 55.47. Then Lilly King took over on breaststroke and powered home a 1:02.40 and handed off to Kelsi Dahlia who blasted a 54.79, finally giving way to Erika Brown who closed in a 51.73. All told, the Condor women finished the race in 3:44.52, whereas the previous record, also held by the United States, had stood at a 3:45.20, set at the Duel in the Pool in 2015.

To finish things off, Kliment Kolesnikov, leading off for Energy Standard, blasted a new World Record in the 100 backstroke, registering a time of 48.58 to cleave a full 0.30 from the previous record. Ilya Shymanovich, Chad le Clos, and Florent Manaudou took things from there to crank out a 3:18.28, nearly a full second under Russia’s 3:19.16 from 2009 and a new World Best.

While the ISL has seen World Records before, no single ISL meet has witnessed more than two official World Records. The first World Record ever broken in ISL competition came from Minna Atherton in the 100 backstroke in 2019 at the Budapest match, also in Duna Arena. In the 2019 ISL Final in Las Vegas, Daiya Seto and Caeleb Dressel broke World Records in the 400 IM and 50 freestyle, respectively. In 2020 during the first semifinal, Kira Toussaint and Adam Peaty lowered World Records in the 50 backstroke and 100 breaststroke, respectively, and then in the second semifinal Dressel lowered the 100 IM World Record. While each one of those swims in obviously impressive, never before has the ISL attacked the record books like this, especially in a single day.

2. Condors, Not London, Have the Best Shot at Upsetting Energy

The Cali Condors were strong last season and have proven especially strong in 2020, replacing London Roar as top-dog Energy Standard’s toughest rival. Though London lost many of its Australian competitors, including Olympic champion Kyle Chalmers, it did pick up Alia Atkinson who swam for Iron in 2019, Kira Toussaint, also an Iron swimmer in 2019, and Annie Lazor who was previously on LA Current, as well as some strong ISL rookies.

The Condors had a lot of success recruiting as well, picking up big guns including Beata Nelson, Erika Brown, Coleman Stewart, Eddie Wang, and Allison Schmitt. Adding these names to a roster that already included Caeleb Dressel, Olivia Smoliga, Lilly King, and Hali Flickinger has proven extremely successful. Not only are the Condors giving Energy Standard a good fight, they actually stand a chance at winning the 2020 league title.

3. Lilly King is Back on Form

Lilly King was undefeated in the 50, 100, and 200 breaststroke events until day 1 of match 10 in Budapest when both streaks were ended. She held onto the 100 win streak on day 2, but in the semifinals she lost the 50 again, though she rebounded for her second skins victory at the end of the meet.

Seeing both Benedetta Pilato and Alia Atkinson race very fast in the first semifinal, King’s chances of winning all 3 breaststrokes–or even 2 of 3–in the Grand Final seemed dubious. Now that day 1 is behind us we can confidently say that King is back on form. First, King won the 200 breaststroke, then she turned around and cranked out another win and new American Record in the 50 breaststroke to become the second-fastest all-time behind Atkinson. Pilato touched just 0.04 behind King to tie for 4th all-time and equal Ruta Meilutyte‘s 2014 European Record. Atkinson, the World Record holder, was close also with a 28.88.

It ain’t over till it’s over, but based on what we’ve seen today, King is back on top and looking a lot less vulnerable than she did during match 10 and the second semifinal. Since she is now tapered, perhaps she can notch another World Record tomorrow in the 100 breaststroke. Her split in the 400 medley relay was a 1:02.40, just 0.04 off of the fastest time ever which is co-owned by Atkinson and Meilutyte, and King has produced numerous flat-start performances that were superior to her relay splits.

4. Cali Women Far Outscore Men on Day 1, Vice-Versa for LA

When a team is divided equally with the same number of women as men, GMs and coaches of course hope that each sex brings in nearly the same amount of points. Sure, the women are going to be stronger in one race or discipline on a given team while the men stronger in a different race or stroke, but ideally it will all balance out, though that’s not what we’re seeing in the day 1 point totals for the ISL Grand Final, at least not for the two American clubs.

The Cali Condors, who lead in overall points with 267.0, have scored 151 of those points in women’s races and 116 of them in men’s, a difference of 35 points. The LA Current also show an imbalance with 104 of their total 177 points coming from the men’s side while the remaining 73 have been earned by the women, making for a 31 point difference.

For comparison, Energy Standard and London Roar have much smaller differences between their women’s and men’s point totals. Energy shows only a 2.5 point difference in favor of the women while London shows a 5.5 point difference in favor of the men.

Day 2 is unlikely to even things out for the Condors, especially now that we know the men’s skins will be breaststroke. Unless Dressel can achieve some major jackpots in the 100 IM and 100 freestyle, as well as possibly the 50 fly, the Condor women could possibly outscore the men by a wide margin. For LA, on the other hand, Shields, Licon, and Seliskar will get to race some of their best events tomorrow, though so will Gastaldello with the 50 fly, yet it seems unlikely the points gap will narrow very much, not that it especially matters since all points go towards the same tally.

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5 months ago

Ok I’m going to go ahead and put it out there…..


Reply to  Swimfish87
5 months ago

Madison Cox

Reply to  Swimfish87
5 months ago

I’m pretty sure Tom Dean is already with the London roar and he delivered on the hype. Solid 400 freestyle’s with some bonus 400 IM.

About Reid Carlson

Reid Carlson

Reid Carlson originally hails from Clay Center, Kansas, where he began swimming at age six.  At age 14 he began swimming club year-round and later with his high school team, making state all four years.  He was fortunate enough to draw the attention of Kalamazoo College where he went on to …

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