This week, the ISL will be announcing each team’s “protected” athletes: effectively, the pool from which each team will be retaining athletes as part of the draft process. To be clear: these are not the lists of athletes that a team will protect; rather, it is the group from which the team will choose up to 15 to protect, and from which fans will pick 1 additional swimmer to protect.
That means the new information will tell us two big things: which athletes have declined or refused to return to their former teams (which is something the league is, apparently, allowing), and which athletes are being given special exceptions after skipping the 2020 season and being allowed to return to their 2019 teams. Also excluded are athletes who didn’t register for the 2021 ISL season.
The professional swimming league started today with last year’s top two finishing teams, the 2020 league champion Cali Condors and the 2019 league champion Energy Standard. The league will continue with two more teams each day this week.
While these lists were pretty as-expected, we expect more interesting revelations later in the draft, both from teams like the London Roar that were missing many athletes from the 2020 season because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and from the lower-ranked teams, which have historically been more challenged by athletes not wanting to return in an effort to race for better teams.
DRAFT PROCESS IN BRIEF
- On June 21, teams will announce the first 5 athletes that they will retain from their 2021 rosters.
- On June 28, teams will announce up to 10 additional athletes that they will retain from their 2021 rosters. After that, there will be a public vote for a 16th athlete that each team will retain from their 2021 rosters.
- On June 29, teams will draft the remainder of their rosters, with the lowest finishing teams from last year’s season getting advantageous draft positions.
- Click here to read a more detailed description of the draft.
This group of “protected” athletes are not yet actually retained. Today’s lists show the athletes who have “confirmed their commitment to remain on their current team if selected by the team’s General Manager or if elected by the fans online, during the ISL Draft.” That means teams can essentially choose to retain athletes from these lists.
An athlete who doesn’t agree to stay with their team from last season will enter the draft pool as a rookie. Unretained athletes from this list will enter the draft pool as a veteran.
Among the interesting names being retained are Florent Manaudou with Energy Standard. While he’s been a fixture for this team, a very public breakup between his agent Jean-Francois Salessy and the club where he was the General Manager did create some risk that Manaudou might attempt to move on from the team next season.
We also ran through each team’s roster in the spring for a very early look at who each team should try to retain. You can read that story below:
Cali Condors Protected Swimmers
- This pool includes pretty much all of Cali’s top scorers from last year, including league MVP Caeleb Dressel. The highest 2020 scorer not included is Allison Schmitt. She was the #78 overall scorer in the league last year, but is not among the 940 athletes registered for the 2021 season.
- Another key swimmer not included is Melanie Margalis, also not registered for the league. She had the #3 time in the league last year in the 200 IM and 400 IM .
- Australia’s Ariarne Titmus was a standout for Cali in 2019, but did not compete in 2020 along with many other top Australian competitors, who faced tough travel restrictions amid the pandemic. She was not among the 940 names registered as of last week, and also does not appear on this list.
- Backstroker Mitch Larkin was named to the roster last year, but like Titmus did not compete. He’s on the protected list.
- On the flip side, Clyde Lewis does appear on the league’s registration list but not on this list, suggesting he’ll enter the draft pool and not be retained by Cali.
- Others not registered (at least, as of the 940-name list from last week): Gunnar Bentz, Meghan Small, Haley Anderson, Veronica Burchill, Kelly Fertel.
- Lia Neal has retired. Tate Jackson appears to be no longer eligible due to a one-month suspension for THC.
Energy Standard Protected Swimmers
|Chad Le Clos|
|Tamara van Vliet|
- Once again, most of the top-scoring names return, including 2019 season MVP Sarah Sjostrom.
- The highest-scoring swimmer from last year not returning to this roster is Danas Rapsys, the Lithuanian freestyler. Rapsys was the #53 overall scorer last year, but does not appear on the league registration list.
- Italian world record-holder Benedetta Pilato is included on this list. That confirms that the ISL will allow at least some junior athletes, despite an earlier announcement that the league would be restricted to athletes age 18 and up. The now-16-year-old Pilato was one of the top performers for Energy Standard last year.