The International Swimming League (ISL) has served as a proving ground of sorts for some of the sport’s more unheralded athletes through each of the first three seasons, giving swimmers an opportunity to perform in the spotlight on a consistent basis and emerge as a star.
From athletes retained by their club in the 2021 ISL draft, to those that were selected and even some that went undrafted and were later picked up in free agency, here are some of the ISL’s biggest breakout stars from Season 3.
Ingrid Wilm, LA Current (Free agent signing)
Number one with a bullet (though this list isn’t officially numbered) is Ingrid Wilm, who went from relative obscurity to becoming not only one of the league’s top female backstrokers, but one of the ISL’s best swimmers, period.
Wilm swam for the University of British Columbia in U SPORTS (the national governing body of university sport in Canada), and finished her collegiate career with best times of 26.90, 57.75 and 2:06.78 in the SCM backstroke events. The 50 and 100 times were from 2017, and the 200 was from 2015.
Then, after hitting a pair of LCM best times at the Canadian Olympic Trials in June, Wilm was picked up by the LA Current for the ISL season.
She immediately asserted herself as one of the league’s best, and went on to win nine individual backstroke events over the course of the season and another two in the backstroke skins.
Wilm closed out the season (including playoffs and final) as the ISL’s 11th-highest scorer overall, scoring 287 points across eight match appearances. That made her LA’s top female point-getter by 50 points, and she was also just a few points shy of Tom Shields (290.25) for the club’s top scorer overall.
Wilm also broke the Canadian Record multiple times in the 100 back, culminating with a time of 55.61 in Match 8 that makes her the ninth-fastest swimmer in history.
Barbora Seemanova, Iron (6th overall rookie pick)
21-year-old Barbora Seemanova was an astute pickup by Iron in the rookie round of the ISL draft in the summer, as she went on to be the club’s second-highest scorer over the course of the season.
The Czech native finished with 246.5 points in eight matches, ranking 22nd in the league and second to only Ranomi Kromowidjojo (285.0) on Iron.
Seemanova, who was coming off of winning the women’s 200 free European championship title in the long course pool in May, won that race four times during the season and the 400 free once.
Alberto Razzetti, Toronto Titans (Retained)
Alberto Razzetti was retained by Toronto in the ISL draft after signing with them previously, but he didn’t compete in the 2020 season, so his emergence in 2021 was truly a breakout.
The Italian went on a tear for the Titans, winning seven times individually (twice in the men’s 200 fly, three times in the 200 IM, and twice in the 400 IM). Razzetti lowered the Italian National Record in all three events in the span of a few weeks in November, with the 200 IM mark coming in the ISL’s third playoff match at 1:52.10 (he broke the other two during SC Euros).
The 22-year-old finished the campaign as the league’s 36th-highest scorer with 203.5 points in seven matches, ranking him second among Toronto swimmers behind only Kylie Masse (255.0).
Mark Nikolaev, DC Trident (Retained)
Formerly a top NCAA swimmer at Grand Canyon University, Mark Nikolaev swam for the DC Trident in Season 2, but really brought his game to a new level in 2021.
Nikolaev, a Russian native, made his mark as one of the top male backstrokers in the league, winning the men’s 50 back twice and the 100 back four times—all coming either in the Play-In Match or the playoffs.
After his fastest swims in Season 2 were 23.20 and 50.72 in the 50 and 100 back, respectively, Nikolaev cracked the 23 and 50-second barrier numerous times in Season 3, with new personal bests recorded at 22.67 and 49.25.
After scoring only 41 points in four matches in 2020 (10.25 points/match), Nikolaev finished with 151.5 points in Season 2 in seven appearances (21.7 points/match). That figure doesn’t tell the whole story, however, as Nikolaev scored 127 of his points in his last four matches (the Play-In Match and three playoff matches), averaging 31.75 points per match.
That made Nikolaev DC’s third-highest male scorer, trailing Andreas Vazaios (170.0) and Aleksandr Shchegolev (169.0). Shchegolev, also a Russian, is another breakout performer from the season, winning the men’s 200 free five times and the 100 free twice.
Abbie Wood, New York Breakers (Retained)
Abbie Wood was clearly already a top performer for the New York Breakers in Season 2, but was one of the few bright spots for the club in what was a difficult season in 2021.
Despite the fact that the Breakers failed to make the playoffs and only raced in five matches, Wood still finished 32nd in league scoring, second among non-playoff swimmers behind only Tokyo’s Daiya Seto.
Wood scored 212.5 points in five matches, averaging 42.5 points per match. If she had scored at that rate for a club that advanced all the way to the final (and didn’t swim the Play-In Match, meaning they raced eight times), the Brit would’ve ranked seventh in the league overall.
Wood was dominant in winning the women’s 200 IM four times and the 400 IM three times during the season, and added an eighth victory in the 200 breast.
Though she was already one of the league’s top swimmers last season, Wood really levelled up in Season 3, and now it’s a matter of getting her some more help on the Breakers.
- Adam Barrett, Energy Standard – Barrett didn’t win any individual events on the season, but he came through clutch for Energy Standard after returning to the highest level of the sport after swimming Masters in recent years. Barrett’s third-place finish in the skins event during the ISL Finale clinched the title for Energy Standard. It should be noted that it hasn’t been that long since Barrett was performing at a high level. He set the British Record in the SCM 100 fly just five years ago.
- Teppei Morimoto, London Roar – London selected Morimoto in the eighth round, 68th overall, during the draft, and he turned out to be a pretty solid pickup despite coming in as a relative unknown. Morimoto’s big moment came in the ISL Final, winning the men’s 200 fly over some heavy-hitters in a time of 1:50.44. Morimoto won the event four times over the course of the season.
- Summer McIntosh, Toronto Titans – McIntosh was already a well-known commodity coming into the season after her exploits at the Olympics (at just 14 years of age), but she showed that she’s much more than a mid-distance freestyle threat in her brief ISL appearance. The Canadian native only raced for her hometown Toronto Titans four times, but still put up 143 points (35.75 per match) and won five events, doing so in the 400 IM twice and the 200 fly once in addition to two in the 400 free.
- Katie Shanahan, London Roar – Shanahan emerged as a very reliable, versatile option for the Roar despite not grabbing many headlines over the season. The 17-year-old free agent signing won the women’s 400 IM back in Match 8, and was relied upon to swim anything from backstroke to butterfly to IM for the Roar during the playoffs. She finished with 134 points, tied for 77th in the league overall.
- Javier Acevedo, LA Current – Another swimmer that really flew under the radar for the entire season was Acevedo, who came in as a free agent signing and proved to be extremely reliable. Known for his backstroke prowess during his NCAA days at Georgia (and making the Canadian Olympic team in 2016 in the 100 back), Acevedo frequently swam breaststroke on the club’s medley relays and turned out to be a very strong performer in the IMs. In the ISL Final, Acevedo finished third in both the 100 and 200 IM, breaking the Canadian Record in the former.