The New York Breakers have confirmed their 29-athlete roster for the 2021 ISL Season in Naples, Italy. The Breakers have 32 athletes on their original roster, but will only be sending 29 (16 female, 13 male) athletes for the regular season.
Of note, there is one huge name missing from the NY Breaker’s Naples roster: David Popovici.
Popovici shocked the world in July when he dropped a 47.30 long course 100 freestyle to become the fastest swimmer in the world for the year (at the time). At the Tokyo Olympics, Popovici threw down a 1:44.68 to place fourth overall in the 200 free, and was also a finalist in the 100, placing seventh.
The absence of Popovici will hinder the Breaker relays. Additionally, breaststroke specialist James Wilby will not be competing during the ISL’s regular season in Naples.
|Women’s Roster (Regular Season)|
|Daria K. Ustinova|
|Daria S. Ustinova|
|Men’s Roster (Regular Season)|
|Brandonn Cruz de Almeida|
Although the NY Breakers plan to send 29 athletes to Naples for the regular season, each team is only allowed 28 athletes on a roster per meet (including 2-per-gender who can only swim relays). The Breakers can only send 13 male athletes after losing out on Popovici and Wilby, which isn’t ideal to fill out the event roster evenly. The Breakers will compete in the following four regular season matches during the 2021 ISL Season:
- Match 2: August 28th-29th vs. CAC, LAC, TOK
- Match 3: September 2nd-3rd vs. ENS, LON, IRO
- Match 7: September 16th-17th vs. CAC, IRO, TOR
- Match 10: September 25th-26th vs. IRO, TOK, AQC
2021 DEPTH CHARTS
IM specialist Abbie Wood will join the NY Breakers in Naples. Wood has a Sapphire Gem in the 200 IM, which classifies her as the #4-ranked female athlete in the event across the entire ISL.
Brendon Smith will be a threat in the men’s 400 IM as he comes off his Olympic Bronze Medal performance. At the 2021 Australian Olympic Trials, Smith broke both the Oceanic and Australian Records as he qualified for the Tokyo Games in 4:09.27. He’s shown an impressive amount of growth in this event, as his best time entering June’s Aussie Trials was a 4:14.9. Smith also has potential to perform well in the 400 freestyle based on his time from last season (3:40.20).
Philip Heintz is a huge addition to the Breakers’ roster. The German is primarily a fly and IM specialist, as he has an Emerald Gem in the 200 IM, which classifies him as the #3-ranked male athlete in the event across the entire league. In spite of his success in the IM, he’s also a strong 200 freestyler.
The NY Breakers also have three top-ranked female breaststrokers, Sarah Vasey (30.1/1:05.1), Tes Schouten (30.2/1:05.2), and Molly Renshaw (30.3/1:04.7), who have all set new personal bests in the long course versions of the breaststroke events recently. The hope is that it their recent success will translate well into short course meters.
The NY Breakers are fortunate to have an elite male breaststroker in Marco Koch. Koch broke the world record in the 200 SCM breaststroke (2:00.44) at the 2016 German Short Course Nationals. However, it’s important to note that Koch’s best times are dated. Koch’s best 100 and 200 breaststroke times are from 2016, and his 50 breaststroke best time was set back in 2014. Of note, Koch broke the ISL Record in the 200 breaststroke (2:00.81) during the 2020 regular season, which is only .4 off his best time and the former world record.
The Breakers are missing Olympic Silver Medalist James Wilby, who boasts personal best times of 26.61/57.61/2:06.45 (SCM) in the breaststroke events. The NY Breakers’ breaststroke success will rely on Koch’s experience.
The same circumstances apply for female backstroke specialist Daryna Zevina. She has personal best times of 25.99/55.54/1:59.35 across the backstroke events. Her 200 back PB would’ve won the 2020 ISL Final. However, her 50/100 backstroke times are dated from 2014, and her 200 backstroke time was her most recent personal best in 2016.
The NY Breakers are fortunate to have several versatile athletes, including Joe Litchfield. Last season, Litchfield excelled in the 100/200 IM, but was also extremely competitive in the sprint butterfly and backstroke events.
Overall, the skins events seem to be a weakness for the NY Breakers. There is at least one athlete in each of the stroke disciplines that can be successful at their 50-meter event, but none have the top-speed to compete with the best in the ISL. Michael Andrew was an incredibly valuable asset to the Breakers due to his ability to race all four 50s of stroke at an elite level.
The men’s breaststroke events lack depth. After Koch, Heintz is the only other athlete that has broken 1:00 in the 100 breaststroke (59.61). The NY Breakers will take a huge hit by not having James Wilby with them for the ISL Season.
The NY Breakers will suffer due to their lack of elite sprinters, which will hurt their relays. On the men’s side, the NY Breakers lost Pieter Timmers and Damian Wierling. Current NY Breakers athlete Popovici have opted out of the ISL Season, at least for the early stages.
While Popovici hasn’t raced SCM, his 47.30 LCM time converts to 45.69. The Breakers did add 17-year old Jacob Whittle, who’s been 22.1/47.5 in the 50 and 100 freestyle, respectively. While these times aren’t incredibly competitive, Whittle has demonstrated linear improvement and we anticipate to see him drop more time during the upcoming season.
On the women’s side, Arina Surkova is the fastest 100 freestyler (52.43) on the roster. While we have several female athletes in the 52-53 range, the Breakers need a few female sprinters in the 51-mid to 52-low range to be competitive on relays.
Finally, a large majority of the NY Breaker’s A-List athletes have been competing at an elite level for almost a decade. Koch (31), Heintz (30), and Tchórz (29) all have best times in their primary events that are at least five years old. These athletes will have to be near their best times to be competitive in Season 3.
The NY Breakers took a heavy hit with the loss of several elite-level athletes, however they’ve retained some of their key veterans. The Breakers qualified for the Semifinals during Season 2, but will have to rely on these veterans and some new faces to clinch a playoffs spot in Season 3.
If the Breaker’s sprinters can perform in-line with the rest of the competition, they’ll execute well in the freestyle relays. They’ll also count on several of their athletes that have just come off the Tokyo Olympic Games. The Breakers have potential across the events list, but they’ll need to come together as a team to have a legitimate shot. If these variables align, the Breakers will have a successful regular season and could see another post-season berth.