Each new ISL season offers freshly-minted professional swimmers the opportunity to earn some money racing and establish a following among swimming fans. And while we usually think of “breakout” swimmers as young “rookies,” some are older with significant professional experience and are only now hitting their stride in the ISL’s unique competition format.
Siobhan Haughey and Beryl Gastaldello were two of the biggest breakout stars of the 2019 season, while the 2020 ISL season showcased Eddie Wang, Beata Nelson, and Emre Sakci, among others.
There are four regulars season meets remaining in 2021, as well as the “play-in” match where the bottom-4 teams in the league will vie for the final two spots in the November play-offs. Point being, there’s plenty of time left this season for other athletes to have an impact on the league. But, based on what we’ve seen so far, these are our top-5 breakout performers of the 2021 ISL season.
1. Louise Hansson, Toronto Titans – $33,800 – 24 years old
Though the 2021 season is Louise Hansson‘s second outing in the ISL, she has already shown marked improvement over her past season’s performance. Hansson was the Match 5 MVP earning a total of 57.5 points, 32 of which came from a dominant performance in the 50 butterfly skins. Of course, in order to choose butterfly as the stroke for the skins, Hansson and the Toronto Titans had to win the women’s 4 x 100 medley relay, which they did thanks largely to a 54.73 butterfly split from Hansson, which ranks as the 2nd-fastest all-time, per the USA Swimming Data Hub. Hansson also blasted a 55.26 in the individual 100 butterfly, stealing points from three swimmers giving her a total of 15 in the race. Hansson’s time was just 0.04 off the fresh ISL Record set by Kelsi Dahlia a week earlier at 55.22. Hansson’s swim also makes her the 6th-fastest performer all-time in the 100 butterfly.
Beyond fly, Hansson has also won the 100 IM once this season and contributed fast freestyle legs on Toronto’s 4 x 100 freestyle relays. If Toronto is going to be a top-4 team this season, much of it will be thanks to Hansson.
After only two matches, Hansson is ranked 7th in overall MVP standings with 104 points. By comparison, Hansson scored 107.5 points in all of the 2020 season and earned $18,968 for the 5 meets she swam in the Budapest bubble, tying for 69th in the overall MVP standings.
2. Ingrid Wilm, LA Current – $17,500 – 23 years old
Canadian Ingrid Wilm has been on of the LA Current’s biggest point-scorers so far in season 3. Wilm has scored 94 points in 3 matches for the Current and has won the 100 backstroke twice, lowering the Canadian National Record in the race, first in Match 4 with a 55.94, and again in Match 5 with a 55.68.
When Wilm first broke the Canadian Record in the 100 backstroke she won the race and stole the points from three other swimmers, earning 15 in the race. Wilm’s following 100 backstroke in Match 5 resulted in a 19-point win with points stolen from four competitors.
Wilm has been a vital component of the LA Current’s medley relays, helping the Current to a win in the mixed medley relay in Match 4.
3. Summer McIntosh, Toronto Titans – $14,350 – 15 years old
15-year-old Summer McIntosh is backing up her Olympic debut with individual event victories and Canadian National Records in her first season of the ISL. McIntosh won both the 200 butterfly and 400 IM in Match 1 of season 3, earning jackpot points in both races and checkpoint points in the 400 IM. In Match 5, McIntosh won the 400 freestyle in a new Canadian Record time of 3:58.78, lowering the previous record by more than 3 seconds.
Though she specializes in middle-distance, McIntosh has also shown she can contribute 53-low splits in the 4 x 100 freestyle relay. Additionally, she has enough front-end speed to go after checkpoint points in the 400s and enough stamina to hang on and not see those points stolen. For example, McIntosh placed 2nd in the 400 IM in Match 5, though she equaled winner Bailey Andison with 16 points scored.
McIntosh is currently ranked 28th in overall MVP standings with 71 points scored after only two matches.
4. Ali DeLoof, DC Trident – $14,000 – 27 years old
Ali DeLoof has been clutch for the DC Trident in season 3 and has taken her backstroke to a new level. DeLoof became the 2nd-fastest American all-time in the 100 SCM backstroke with a 55.89 swum in Match 5. DeLoof won the 50 backstroke in Match 4 and Match 5, and has become an extremely valuable member of the DC Trident medley relays. DeLoof has also scored points in the 200 backstroke in all three matches she’s raced in so far.
DeLoof has scored 74 MVP points after three matches in season 3, ranking her 25th overall. This nearly matches her season 2 total of 78 MVP points accrued over 5 matches when DeLoof swam for the LA Current, finishing 102nd overall in season 2 MVP standings.
5. Yasuhiro Koseki, Tokyo Frog Kings – $11,450 – 29 years old
Japan’s Yasuhiro Koseki has been a major factor in the Tokyo Frog Kings’ competitive edge in the breaststrokes. In his season 3 debut (Match 2), Koseki won both the 50 and 100 breaststroke in Match 2 and took 2nd to teammate Daiya Seto in the 200. Koseki’s 50 breaststroke was so quick, in fact, he jackpotted three other swimmers for a total of 15 points–teammate Alessandro Pinzuti placed 2nd, giving Tokyo 22 points total in one race. Koseki won the 100 breaststroke again in Match 6 thanks to a quick second 50, out-touching Olympic bronze medalist Nicolo Martinenghi of the Aqua Centurions.
After two matches, Koseki has scored 61.5 MVP points
6. Erik Persson, Iron – $5,050 – 27 years old
Erik Persson is proving to be one of the most valuable members of Team Iron in season 3. While he only has two individual event victories to his name, both in the 200 breaststroke, each has come as a foil to similarly-ranked teams such as the DC Trident and the New York Breakers, each of whom have swimmers that were favored over Persson in each race. Persson even out-split teammate Emre Sakci on the breaststroke leg of the men’s medley relay in Match 3 and appears to be a safer bet to plug into the individual 100 breaststroke than Iron teammate Bernhard Reitshammer.
Person’s two victories in the 200 breaststroke (as well as one 7th- and one 8th-place finishes in the 400 IM) have netted him 22 MVP points so far in season 3.