6 Storylines To Watch In the ISL’s 2020 Season Final


Further ISL final coverage:

1. Does Cali’s Unbeaten Streak Continue In Women’s Medley Relay?

The outcome of the whole meet might turn on the women’s medley relay to close day 1.

Cali has never lost this relay, a streak of 9 straight wins stretching back to last season. But over the regular-season finale and the semifinal rounds, both Energy Standard and London put up far better times than Cali. Energy Standard broke the ISL record and leads Cali by about 1.6 seconds in the ranks.

The winner of this relay gets to pick the skins stroke for day 2, so the impact of this relay could very well flip the meet for any of the top three teams. Here’s a quick comparison of each team’s season-best, but also a composite time made from individual season-best relay splits from the four likely legs – these splits do factor in relay exchanges, except when a swimmer has been faster without a relay exchange. Those cases are noted with an asterisk (*) and suggest a team could have room to improve on that split:

Energy Standard Season Best 3:45.58
Composite Time 3:45.01
BK Emily Seebohm 56.17
BR Benedetta Pilato 1:03.03
FL Maddy Banic 55.14
FR Sarah Sjostrom 50.67
London Roar Season Best 3:46.59
Composite Time 3:44.45
BK Kira Toussaint 55.68
BR Alia Atkinson 1:02.66*
FL Marie Wattel 55.37
FR Freya Anderson 50.74
Cali Condors Season Best 3:47.13
Composite Time 3:45.78
BK Olivia Smoliga 55.62
BR Lilly King 1:03.03
FL Kelsi Dahlia 55.64*
FR Erika Brown 51.49
LA Current Season Best 3:49.42
Composite Time 3:48.17
BK Ali DeLoof 56.72
BR Julia Sebastian 1:05.10
FL Beryl Gastaldello 55.32*
FR Abbey Weitzeil 51.03

2. The Backstroke Battle We’ve All Been Waiting For

Last week, we highlighted the men’s backstroke battle in semifinal #1. But it actually gets even better this week.

The top 4 swimmers in the league this year will go head to head in the 50 back – that’s Ryan Murphy, Christian Diener, Coleman Stewart and Guilherme GuidoMeanwhile the meet will feature 4 of the top 5 swimmers in the 100 back (Kliment KolesnikovGuido, Murphy and Stewart) and 200 back (Murphy, Radoslaw Kawecki, Evgeny Rylov and Kolesnikov).

Every team should have a threat to win at least one of the three backstroke races. Energy Standard has ISL record-holder Kolesnikov in the 100 back, and he could also be a wild card in the 50 after not swimming it yet this year. LA’s Murphy is the league leader in the 50 and 200 backs. Cali’s Kawecki has been one of the few swimmers to beat Murphy in a 200 back this year, and Stewart pushed Murphy to the third round of the 50 back skins last week. And London’s Guido is the ISL record-holder in the 50 back with Diener ranked #2 in the league this year.

There’s also a decent chance we see the backstroke skins on the men’s side, too. Murphy has won 4 backstroke skins and Diener 1, while Guido, Stewart and Dylan Carter have all been in skins finals.

3. Caeleb Dressel On Quintuple World Record Watch

Caeleb Dressel set a world record for the Cali Condors last week. But if things break right this week, he could legitimately challenge five world records.

There’s the 100 IM, where Dressel went 49.88 to take almost half a second off the world record.

There’s the 50 free, where Dressel set the world record at 20.24 in last season’s final and was just .04 off that mark last week.

There’s the 100 free, where Dressel broke his own ISL record last week and sits just three tenths off the world record.

There’s the 50 fly, where Dressel hit a career-best last week and is only three tenths off the world record.

And there’s the 100 fly, which will be Dressel’s first swim of the meet and where he’s about nine tenths off the world record with his swim from last week.

4. King vs Pilato: Round 2

In the very first match of the season, ISL dominator Lilly King beat Italian 15-year-old Benedetta Pilato 28.86 to 28.97 in the 50 breast, keeping King’s ISL career unbeaten streak alive and handing King the ISL record.

In the five meets since then, though, Pilato had gotten steadily faster, culminating in a 28.86 last week to tie King’s league record and set the two in a tie for the fastest time in the league. King, meanwhile, has taken on a brutal event schedule on a weekly basis, winning four ISL skin races, but also taking her first career losses in the 50 breast and 200 breast.

King and Pilato get their much-awaited rematch in the final this week, with the 50 and 100 breast titles up for grabs, plus key legs on the medley relay (where the two have identical 1:03.03 season-best splits) and a potential skin race rematch.

The wild card behind them is London’s Alia Atkinsonwho is the world record-holder in the 50 breast and who broke King’s 100 breast league record last week.

5. How Do Toussaint & Peaty Follow Up Semifinal World Records?

London set two world records last week – now we get to see just how much more they have in the tank after swimming lights out as a team in the semifinals.

Kira Toussaint broke the world record in the 50 back at 25.60. But she now gets to face Cali’s Olivia Smoligaherself only about two tenths off the world record. The two have had a back-and-forth rivalry all season long.

Adam Peaty set the world 100 breast record last week in a banner meet. It’s his good fortune that he doesn’t have to face rookie of the year Emre Sakci, whose Iron team was eliminated last week. But Peaty will still face Energy’s Ilya Shymanovichwho is one spot behind him in league ranks in both the 50 and 100 breast.

6. Loaded Women’s 100 Fly/100 Free Fields

There are only three fields where the entire top five in league ranks come from the four finalist teams. And all three fields will come right at the beginning of a day – the women’s and men’s 100 flys on day 1 and the women’s 100 free on day 2.

The women’s 100 fly and women’s 100 free should be absolute showstoppers.

Energy Standard’s Sarah Sjostrom was a dominator in those events last year, but has been dealing with ongoing back pain this year. And Energy’s immense butterfly depth means she could actually sit out the fly, where her team has three of the league’s top 5 performers with Anastasiya Shkurdai (#3) and Maddy Banic (#5).

In the 100 free, Energy also has league leader Siobhan Haugheywho is just a tenth off the league record.

LA will put up arguably their best swimmer, Beryl Gastaldelloin both races. She leads the league with a league-record 55.32 in the 100 fly, and sits #2 in the 100 free. Her teammate Abbey Weitzeil is among the rookie contenders in the 100 free.

London is very strong in the freestyle, with Freya Anderson consistently throwing down 50-point splits on relays. She’s the #5 swimmer in the league this year in the 100 free.

And Cali is strong in the 100 fly, with Kelsi Dahlia sitting #4 in the league as the former league record-holder.

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2 years ago

The spirit of ISL: ENS relay (Sweden, Italy, USA Australia) and London relay (The Netherlands, France, Jamaica, England). Yes!

Rowdy spirit: Cali relay (USA, USA, USA, USA). No!

2 years ago

i think Pilato is already the best 50 m long course sprinter (her turn isn’t that great, yet). Lily King will win this short course “battle” though

2 years ago

Stewart pushed Murphy to the third round of the 50 back skins last week

That’s one way of interpreting what happened I guess.

The only one so far who could live with Murphy’s endurance in the backstroke skins was Irie, who came within a few hundredths of Murphy on the third 50. Even if Irie were racing in the final, he likely would not have the raw speed to get through the first round.

Kolesnikov seems the most likely to be able to challenge Muprhy in backstroke skins. ENS keeping their cards close to their chest though — we haven’t even seen Kolesnikov swim a 50 yet, but his back halves in the 100 back have been scarily fast.

2 years ago

If dahlia hits the taper right and splits 55.0-54.6ish and everyone else is right on their best or faster it’ll be very interesting

Reply to  MX4x50relay
2 years ago

She didn’t at worlds last summer, hopefully she redeems herself in SCM.

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

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