ISL Stars of Week 4: Sakci, Kolesnikov, Surkova, Sakai & More

In this weekly series, we’ll track stars of the week’s ISL meets, both established stars and rising stars.


Stars of the week will profile top-end swimmers who outperformed expectations for the week. Just winning events isn’t necessarily enough.

Emre Sakci, IRO

What more can you say about Sakci? We noted in our Power Ranks just how good Sakci has been across three rounds of the skins. We’ve got that data below, but also supplemented by the top 10 swims in the league this year in the regular 50 breaststroke race. Sakci has unparalleled speed, but even after two rounds of skins, he’s still swimming faster than any other breaststroker in the league has fully rested.

Round 1 Round 2 Round 3
Emre Sakci (match 7) 25.79 25.85 25.57
Emre Sakci (match 4) 25.91 26.15 25.73
Adam Peaty (match 8) 26.05 26.31 26.65
Caeleb Dressel (match 4) 26.29 26.52 26.20
Ilya Shymanovich (match 7) 25.57 26.05 26.27
Yasuhiro Koseki (match 8) 26.07 26.51 26.89

Top 50 breaststrokes (not including skins) of 2020 ISL

  1. Sakci – 25.29
  2. Sakci – 25.50
  3. Shymanovich – 25.64
  4. Shymanvocih – 25.68
  5. Sakci – 25.74
  6. Shymanovich – 25.75
  7. Martinenghi – 25.87
  8. Lima – 25.91
  9. Peaty – 25.98
  10. Andrew – 26.02

Kira Toussaint, LON

Toussaint hadn’t lost a 100 back this year coming into week 4. Neither had Olivia Smoliga. But Toussaint beat Smoliga head-to-head twice in match 8, first in the 50 back, then in the 100 back. That was a big development for London, which could select backstroke as a women’s skins race if they get a chance in the postseason.

Sarah Sjostrom, ENS

Returned from a back injury, Sjostrom played it fairly safe with a light event load. And paring down the schedule unlocked some massive swims. The reigning league MVP split a blistering 50.6 on the end of Energy’s medley relay, which took over the top time in the league this year. Sjostrom also won the 50 free (23.41) and 100 free (51.32), plus swept all three rounds of the skins (23.8/24.0/23.7). Keeping Sjostrom fresh and allowing her to focus on freestyle instead of butterfly might be Energy Standard’s secret weapon – if a rested Sjostrom can keep uncorking 50-point splits on the medley, Energy could conceivably beat Cali in that relay and funnel the skins toward Sjostrom and away from Lilly King.

Kliment Kolesnikov, ENS

Kolesnikov didn’t look great early in the season, but he sure looked returned to form this week. Kolesnikov hit a league-record 49.16 in the 100 back leading off the team’s medley relay, and now holds the two fastest 100 back times in league history after going 49.42 to win the 100 back a day later. The Russian star also split 45.3 and 45.5 on a pair of free relays, and was 1:50.65 for third in the 200 back. That’s five seconds better than he was in week 1 and two seconds better than he was in week 3.

Caeleb Dressel, CAC

Dressel has taken on such a brutal event load every week that he hasn’t put up a lot of personal-bests, or even times that stand out in the league ranks. But something has to be said for how valuable Dressel has been for Cali in every meet he’s swum. Dressel has competed in six ISL meets in his career. He was the meet MVP in all three of his appearances last year, including the league finale, and he’s won MVP in two of his three meets so far this year. Even with opponents regularly keeping the skins away from his fly/free strengths, Dressel has managed to make the second round of breaststroke skins twice. He won six races in match #8 while swimming ten times including two rounds of the skins.



Rising stars are lesser-known swimmers who had high-impact performances this week.

Townley Haas, CAC

Haas has risen incredibly well this year after a brutal start to the season. Haas was 3:52.3 in the 400 free in week 1, with free relay splits of 46.6 and 47.6. He rebounded in week 2 to go 1:42.5 in the 200 free with a 46.4 relay split. But coming out of Cali’s bye, Haas was on fire, blasting a 1:41.58 in the 200 free, and a 3:39.51 in the 400 free. He ranks #2 in the league in the 200 free and #4 in the 400 free and has yet to lose a 200 free this season.

Kelsey Wog, TOR

Swimming for the Cali Condors last year, Wog was a bit overshadowed by teammate Lilly King. While King won every event she swam, Wog quietly finished second to King in every single 200 breast that year. This year, Wog is starring for Toronto, winning three straight 200 breaststrokes and moving up to #3 in the league this week. Wog also won the 200 IM for Toronto and split a key 1:04.8 on the medley relay this week.

Natsumi Sakai, TOK

Tokyo doesn’t have much of a women’s sprint group – but Sakai has single-handedly carried the team there. The 19-year-old has swum 5+ events in all three of Tokyo’s matches. This week, she was second by just two tenths in the 200 back and 3rd in the 50 back, swimming against one of the league’s best backstroke fields. Sakai was also the fastest split on Tokyo’s women’s free relay (52.0) and on the mixed free relay (52.2).

Blake Pieroni, TOR

Toronto’s Pieroni probably had his best meet of the season this week. On day 1, he split 45 on two separate relays: he was 45.9 on Toronto’s winning free relay and 45.9 on the Titans medley. On day 2, he came within a tenth of stealing the 100 free from league leader Zach Apple, going 46.64. And he followed that up with a 1:43.46 in taking second to league leader Danas Rapsys in the 200 free.

Arina Surkova, NYB

Surkova hit a bunch of personal-bests this week in her highest-scoring week yet. Surkova won the 50 fly in match 8, besting some big names late in the meet. She hit a season-best 100 fly (56.36) for third place. Surkova led off a free relay in a season-best 51.79 on day 1, and came back well for a 52.87 in the individual 100 free the next day. Surkova also had her season-best 100 fly split on the medley at 56.88, and was second in the 50 free at 24.23 in a 1-2 finish for the Breakers.

In This Story

Leave a Reply

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

Smoliga carries heavier load than Toussaint and looks a bit fatigued at this point. She needs a rest before next round

10 months ago


She faced her toughest challenge yet in Alia Atkinson, and she pulled off the win every. single. time.

Thomas Selig
10 months ago

I would have thought Freya Anderson deserved a mention somewhere. Won the 100 and 200 free and some stellar relay splits.

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 »