Close Calls: Losing Tight Races Cost London Roar In ISL Final

The London Roar came into the International Swimming League’s Vegas Final as the big favorites on paper, and late in the match, appeared well on their way to victory. But, a late charge from Energy Standard bumped London down to second place, losing to their European rival by 9.5 points.
The main reason the Roar failed to win despite a large statistical advantage coming in? Failure to win the close races.
0.1% is a tiny margin. That’s roughly one hundredth of a second per length of the pool. Over a 200, we’re talking about a tenth of a second. A total nothing margin. Swimming is not a sport that has a lot of randomness in it – doesn’t matter how many times you could rerun that men’s 400 IM, Daiya Seto is winning it by a mile every time. But on some of these close race, it really could be anyone’s game.
And in these super close races, London had the fewest close wins and the most close losses.
Close Wins 9 5 10 9
Close Losses 8 11 6 8
You could say that Energy won the Finale with Ben Proud beating Kyle Chalmers by 0.11 in the 1st round of the men’s skins. But that’s five times the margin I’m talking about here. And those 11 close losses ended up costing the Roar 25 points against Energy in the team standing.
The most notable of those was the mixed freestyle relay. Energy Standard’s team of Simonas Bilis, Sergey Shevtsov, Kayla Sanchez, and Penny Oleksiak outtouched the London team squad of Kyle Chalmers, Duncan Scott, Bronte Campbell, and Emma McKeon by just 0.06. That is an 8 point swing in Energy’s favor – remember they won the whole meet by only 9.5. Energy’s relay take offs were not great (0.85 total), but they still got a full tenth on London (0.95) in that department.
The next most notable was the women’s 50 free, where Energy’s Sarah Sjostrom beat out London star Cate Campbell by just 0.02. Again, not just a close loss for London – but a close loss to Energy and for the win. Had this gone the other way, that’s another 4 point swing.
Those two races – losses by a combined 0.08 – account for more than Energy’s margin of victory. When every point counts, every finish counts.
The other losses by less than 0.1% for London:
  • McKeon to Shkurdai by 0.01 in the 100 Fly (2 points to Energy)
  • Barratt to Masse and Baker by 0.01 in the 50 Back (2 points)
  • Prigoda to Prenot and Matthew Wilson to Chupkov in the 200 Breast by 0.04 and 0.11 respectively (3 points)
  • LON 2 to CAC 2 by 0.03 in the men’s freestyle relay (2 points)
  • Prigoda to Fink in the 100 Breast by 0.03 (1 point)
  • Belmonte to Flickinger in the 400 Free by 0.04 (1 point)
  • Lanza to Conger in the 50 Fly by 0.01 (1 point)
  • Hibbott to Dahlia in the 200 Fly by 0.12 (1 point)

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The Unoriginal Tim
2 years ago

Headline: Losing races meant they lost.

2 years ago

To be fair it isn’t the easiest thing in the world to win a touch against someone on the opposite end of the pool

Ol' Longhorn
Reply to  Jeff
2 years ago

Swim in your own lane.

Reply to  Jeff
2 years ago

All the close touches were from right side breathers who got touched out by someone on their left!!!!!!

Reply to  sven
2 years ago

Do any elite swimmers breath 3s anymore?

2 years ago

Good article. While someone has to draw the short end of the stick, winning close races is always something I believe an athlete either has it or they don’t have it. Michael Phelps, if it’s a close race, will always find a way and it’s not luck that that happens to him. Those last 5meters of a race is pure guts.

2 years ago

Statistical analysis can be useful for the decision making process only. Otherwise it is just an entertainment by playing with numbers or craziness of Hillary who still cannot believe that she has lost. Energy Standard won. That is a history already. Let’s move forward. It would be better if you begin giving us Olympic predictions so that may help us making right important decisions if your model is good of course.
Can you predict something like Cate Campbell swims 1.3 sec slower her fresh personal best in 100, or Sarah Sjostrom swims more than 0.6 sec slower her 4 days old world record, or Katie Ledecky not being able to finish 200 race swimming suddenly last fifty significantly slower… Read more »

Reply to  Yozhik
2 years ago

I agree. You can play around with the numbers all you like. The results stand as they are.

You can likewise show ENS winning by an overwhelming margin by changing other results.

I enjoyed the whole series. And the finale was very good. Having a non favourite team win was ultimately a good outcome – that’s the beauty of sport. The unexpected. The unanticipated.

Reply to  Yozhik
2 years ago

I think it’s useful in terms of post-mortem analysis and identifying problem areas for future improvement. ENS and LAC were roughly 50/50 in terms of close results, as should probably be expected. CAC and LON are anomalous, albeit with relatively small sample sizes. If you coach LON and you see that you were on the wrong side of 70% of touch-outs, you know to go back and review footage closely and look for common factors that might be causing that. Conversely, if you’re winning 70% of close races (CAC), you want to figure out what your swimmers are doing right and build on it even more.

Maybe it’s all just luck, maybe the swimmer started their final charge too late,… Read more »

2 years ago

Coulda woulda shoulda