ISL 2020: SwimSwam’s Season Awards


The ISL’s 2020 season has wrapped, and it’s time for SwimSwam’s end-of-season awards:

Swimmer of the Year: Caeleb Dressel, Cali Condors

It would be hard to justify anyone else here. Even if you depart from the ISL’s rigid adherence to MVP points as the sole determiner of the league’s top swimmer, Dressel can counter with a ridiculous 24 individual event wins and 29 total wins. Those five relay victories are especially significant, given that Dressel was carrying the Cali men on his back for most of the season. He was the league’s top scorer, and terrified teams in the skins so badly that every single team picked ‘away’ from his best events everytime they swam the Condors.

Honorable mentions: Lilly King, Beryl Gastaldello, Ryan Murphy

Rookie of the Year: Emre Sakci, Iron

Another clear-cut standout. Sakci was a dominator in the breaststrokes this year, winning all five of his meets in the 50 breast. He finishes with the league’s best 50 breast by a solid margin, and is the ISL record-holder with his 25.29. If his Iron team had made the final, we could have seen a world record attempt by a fully-rested Sakci. He also had a chunk of the year where he led the league in the 100 breast, though he ultimately faded to 3rd in the league as others soared over the postseason.

Honorable mentions: Benedetta Pilato, Yui Ohashi

Breakout Swimmer of the Year: Freya Anderson, London Roar

Sakci could have been in contention for this one, too, but there is no shortage of breakout candidates. Anderson was a game-changer for the London Roar this season, arriving during the team’s week 2 bye and effectively re-energizing the Roar relays into league contenders.

Here’s a look at all of Anderson’s swims this year – she dipped into the 50-points as many times as anyone else in the league on 100 freestyle splits, and was a consistent force week-in and week-out:

100 FR 100 FR (Relay Leadoff) 100 FR (Relay Split) 200 FR 50 FR 50 BR Skins
Match #5 51.43 51.52
1:54.66 24.06
Match #8 51.87 51.88 51.15
1:52.60 24.29
Match #10 51.52 51.76
1:52.82 24.28 30.13
Semifinal #1 51.43 50.99
1:53.07 24.26
Final 51.43 51.43 50.44
1:51.87 24.03

Race of the Year: Women’s 100 Free – ISL Final

It was an especially pivotal moment of the season. Defending champs Energy Standard were in a precarious position, trailing the Cali Condors by 17.5 points. But the event schedule probably broke a little bit better in day 2, and Energy also had shots to win both skin races to close the day. All they needed was a momentum boost to kickstart the day.

Siobhan Haughey was coming off of an ISL record 50.94 in the 100 free the day before, done while leading off the women’s 400 free relay. But the field was also stacked. LA’s Beryl Gastaldello sat #2 in league ranks for the year at 51.16. London’s Freya Anderson had just led off a 400 free relay in 51.43 and anchored a medley in 50.44. Energy Standard’s Sarah Sjostrom was #3 in league ranks (51.17) and hadn’t lost a 100 free this season in five swims. LA’s Abbey Weitzeil (51.26) was also ranked in the top four in the league for the season.

In the very first event of day 2, Energy Standard made a fateful strategic decision to sit Sjostrom out of the 100 free. In theory, it allowed her to focus in on the 100 IM later in the session, with Femke Heemskerk more than capable of filling in on freestyle.

The race was as thrilling a showdown as we saw all year. Weitzeil led early, blazing out in a 24.49. But her LA Current teammate Gastaldello flew home, rocketing from 4th to 1st over the final 50 meters. Haughey went by Weitzeil and very nearly held off Gastaldello. Meanwhile Anderson went out too slow and was sitting 7th at the halfway turn, but roared back to wind up 4th.

The entire top four were separated by just .05 seconds in a brilliant photo finish. And the race was ultimately a missed opportunity for momentum for Energy Standard, which got just one event win in the opening 8-event session to start day 2, falling behind Cali and never making up the ground.

Performance of the Year: Dressel’s 49.28 WR in 100 IM

There are a number of ISL world records to pick from. This one is particularly impressive, though, because Dressel is nearly one full second ahead of the #2 performer in history (Vladimir Morozov at 50.26) and almost a second-and-a-half ahead of the #3 performer (Kliment Kolesnikov at 50.63). Dressel won this race in the ISL finale by almost two full seconds.

It also came as his 6th swim in a very busy event schedule, and happened in the very same event session as his 100 free win, showing remarkable toughness and also all-but-sealing the league title for his Cali Condors.

2020 Most Improved: Cali Condors Men

Through the regular season, the Cali Condor men ranked just 6th among 10 teams in the league in average scoring. The Cali men were brutal in the early weeks, scoring just 173 points in week 1 and never scoring more than 231 in any single meet.

Then, the postseason hit, and the Condors went on a tear. They scored 264.5 points in men’s events in the semifinals, followed by 240.5 in the final – that means the Condor men had easily their two highest-scoring meets against the league’s toughest competition.

The Condors went from the #6-scoring men’s roster in the regular season to the #1-scoring men’s roster in the postseason.

In This Story

Leave a Reply

Notify of
newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
9 months ago

This list is good, but I think SwimSwam is just too biased towards American swimmers. They should recognize other swimmers as well ( it’s boring to see the same caeleb dressel and lily king)

Last edited 9 months ago by Fujiii
Reply to  Fujiii
9 months ago

They were the literal two highest scorers in the league, and of the 3 individual awards, 2 went to internationals.

You think we should pick a non-American swimmer as Swimmer of the Year just for the sake of picking a non-American swimmer as Swimmer of the Year?

Reply to  Braden Keith
9 months ago

Dressel Clearly number 1. And by far.

I think you could make a strong case for one of the other individual WR setters over the listed runner ups though, depends on your perspective.

Reply to  Fujiii
9 months ago

swimswam isnt rowdy gaines. this list is perfect and fair

Reply to  Fujiii
9 months ago

You want them to give someone a false honor for what? Not hurt your feelings?

9 months ago

Not sure Anderson can really be a breakout, she is a 2x European SC Champion. Unless we’re talking purely in an ISL context, of course.

British hat on, I’d give Abbie Wood the breakout award. She genuinely came from nowhere to become the 3rd fastest European woman of all time in the 200IM, and one of them was in a poly suit.

Reply to  Dee
9 months ago

I understand not wanting to award Sakci twice but he is surely the breakout of the season too.

He was pretty much on nobody’s radar, a European SC silver medal in the 50 the only award to his name.

Reply to  Joe
9 months ago

While this was clearly a breakout meet for him, I don’t think he came from as obscure a place as a few others. As you say he has won a medal at European level (and finished 4th in the 100) and has very fast LCM PBs (26.8/58.8) from 2019.

Reply to  Dee
9 months ago

Maddy Banic could be up there for breakout swimmer

9 months ago

I think it’s unfair Flickinger doesn’t appear in any list. In a category of her own maybe, if she doesn’t fit anywhere.

Reply to  iceman
9 months ago

She wins Iron Swimmer of the year! (Sure that’s generally Hosszu, but Flickinger deserves it more than anyone from the ISL, imo.)

Reply to  N P
9 months ago

I like the idea of an Iron Swimmer of the year. Definitely needs to be an addition to the Swammys.

Reply to  Samboys
9 months ago

Iron Swimmer of the Year: most points from races 200 and up

Reply to  N P
9 months ago

With Duncan Scott!

Last edited 9 months ago by Monteswim
Reply to  iceman
9 months ago

Flickinger in underrated for sure

9 months ago

I think Adam Peaty deserves a mention, twice breaking the WR!

Reply to  Gheko
9 months ago

I guess he’d have a case for a runner up slot alongside King, Gastaldello and Murphy.

Guess he gets a knock for not being as dominant, or racking up as many points, as the above three. Which is fair enough — Sakci had the better of him for much of the season.

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 …

Read More »