New ISL Tactic Unlocked? Teams Coasting in Races for Smaller Penalties


Short-staffed International Swimming League playoff teams have seemingly realized that swimming a random athlete in an off event — and potentially letting them coast through it — can save the team a few points over leaving an empty lane.

ISL teams automatically lose four points for leaving a lane empty in a given event. On Saturday, for example, the Toronto Titans accepted that penalty in the men’s 200 back, where Cole Pratt was missing due to shoulder soreness.

At the time, Toronto assistant general manager Dylan Kent said the team didn’t want to “sacrifice anyone’s performance from their primary events” by filling the lane with another available body. But on Sunday, with Pratt out again, the team opted to use breaststroker Tobias Bjerg in the 100 back and 100 IM and sprint freestyler Yuri Kisil in the 100 IM.

Bjerg, an Olympian, went 1:05.44 (30.49/34.69) in his 100 back, noticeably behind the field from the get-go. That was 15.95 seconds behind winner Ryan Murphy, who went 49.49 — but in addition to getting jackpotted, the team only lost one more point for missing the minimum time standard in the event. Had they left a lane empty again, that would have been an automatic -4.

In the 100 IM, Bjerg actually ended up with a relatively solid time, going 54.90 for sixth place, 3.05 seconds behind winner Thomas Ceccon. Kisil was eighth in 1:03.99, 12.14 seconds back. So again, the swimmers got jackpotted, but the team only lost 1 additional each instead of giving up 4 had it left a lane empty.

“Due to injuries and other needs of the roster there’s only so many swimmers you can fill holes with,” Kent told SwimSwam. “Tobias had to do a tough double and he stepped up and did all he could. The 100IM was a best time for him by 0.7.”

An event later, Aqua Centurions used Laura Taylor in the women’s 100 breast with Arianna Castiglioni sitting out. Taylor is a middle-distance freestyler and butterflier without any official breaststroke times on record and went 1:20.36 (37.69/42.67), 16.78 seconds behind winner Alia Atkinson. Again, Taylor got jackpotted, but only lost 1 additional point for missing the minimum cut, rather than 4 if the team had left her lane empty.

So, to review, as long as you have a swimmer available who can legally complete a race, it’s probably worth it to use them and hang on to three points.

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2 months ago

1:20 SCM sounds laughably slow for 100m breaststroke, even if you’re a freestyler…

2 months ago

To all ISL teams: I am available to fill a lane. DM me if interested.

2 months ago

This reminds me of the local summer swim league dual meet rules, which had 5-3-1 scoring, but if one team swept the top 3 places, the other team got the 1 point for third place as long as they entered at least one swimmer who finished and wasn’t dq’ed. Once or twice, I volunteered to swim some abominably slow 50 breaststrokes to get that 1 point (I wasn’t going to be scoring points otherwise).

If I were an ISL swimmer (or more to the point, an ISL swimmer union), I would be vehemently against this practice. It doesn’t take much for a cash strapped sponsor to realize they could reduce the number of swimmers they pay (or to just have… Read more »

Ledecky will go 3:55 in Paris
2 months ago

This ruins the fun of jackpots tbh

2 months ago

This seems obvious. Isn’t this how all Dual Meets work? Like why wouldn’t you at least have somebody swim?

Reply to  CraigH
2 months ago

I mean, I got put into all kinds of off events just to take 12th-16th place at big invitationals, because we had a couple of other studs guaranteed to final in my “primary” events. Or, go anchor the B relay and let an underclassmen on the A relay.
Ahh, the joys of being a utility swimmer on a small team.
Always got swim fly for some reason, though…

Last edited 2 months ago by Drewbrewsbeer
2 months ago

Just remove the penalty for not swimming a swimmer and just increase the jackpot for the winner and extra points for other teams if there’s an empty lane from another team

2 months ago

That’s just basic math right? Anyone can float a race, just an extended warm up.

2 months ago

That strategy being a thing kind of proves that there’s something wrong with the way points are attributed right now or at least that the two swimmer per race per team format isn’t necessarily fitting for every race (relays especially as we saw yesterday some teams using breastrokers in their B teams for the 4×100 free, coasting around 55s). At the very least the issue should be discussed in my opinion

Last edited 2 months ago by CasualSwimmer
Reply to  CasualSwimmer
2 months ago

It’s like using an outfielder as a pitcher, or the college hockey goalie as the emergency in-the-building 4th string backup for both teams. Sort of funny, unique if when it happens very rarely, but for integrity of the sport should not happen often.

Reply to  CasualSwimmer
2 months ago

Well technically you can’t prohibit a breastroker from swimming freestyle if they really wanted to, Jessica hardy anyone ? I think ISL is designed to favour the multi stroke specialists so I think the focus should be on the outcomes of the races themselves and how many points teams can get … I do think that speciality strokes like breaststroke etc should get more points so as to encourage teams to recruit or steal good ones.. it’s become blatantly obvious that London Roar have come to rely on Adam Peaty for their breastroke needs and have not really invested whereas Aqua Centurions have like 20 world class breatsrokers in their team

Reply to  Verram
2 months ago

The way the whole League works is that you can win with a few stars. If your top swimmer can jackpot your second swimmer then it doesn’t really matter where they come.

If they’re concerned about depth then jackpots shouldn’t really be a thing.

Yes Aqua has great depth in breaststrokers, but how is that working out for them? It’s important to have at least one viable option in every stroke, and until Roar’s two top breaststrokers disappeared, they did.

If you took away the top 2 in any stroke from almost any team they would struggle. Imagine ENS without Sjostrom or Haughey, or Cali without Dressel or Ress, or Cali without King or Hannis. It literally takes a team’s… Read more »

About Torrey Hart

Torrey Hart

Torrey is from Oakland, CA, and majored in media studies and American studies at Claremont McKenna College, where she swam distance freestyle for the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps team. Outside of SwimSwam, she has bylines at Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports, SB Nation, and The Student Life newspaper.

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