Ultra Swim Swimmer of the Month is a recurring SwimSwam feature shedding light on a U.S.-based swimmer who has proven themselves over the past month. As with any item of recognition, Swimmer of the Month is a subjective exercise meant to highlight one athlete whose work holds noteworthy context – perhaps a swimmer who was visibly outperforming other swimmers over the month, or one whose accomplishments slipped through the cracks among other high-profile swims. If your favorite athlete wasn’t selected, feel free to respectfully recognize them in our comment section.
It’s fair to say that performance expectations were at an all-time low coming into the first weekend of racing for Season 3 of the International Swimming League (ISL). Swimmers were either just a few weeks removed from competing at the Olympics, which almost always sees athletes take an extended break thereafter, or had failed to qualify for the Games and likely took some sort of layoff in the last few months to reset.
And while some big names weren’t in attendance and not all of the times were spectacular, Coleman Stewart quickly put an end to the narrative that the ISL’s regular season would be void of record-breaking performances.
Stewart, who had a few near misses in his quest to qualify for the U.S. Olympic team in June, placing fourth in the men’s 100 butterfly and eighth in the 100 freestyle at the Olympic Trials in Omaha, came flying out of the gates to open the season for the defending champion Cali Condors, breaking the world record in the men’s 100 backstroke (short course meters) in a time of 48.33.
Stewart’s swim laid waste to the previous all-time record of 48.58, set by Russia’s Kliment Kolesnikov during Season 2 of the ISL in November 2020, and also extinguished his own American Record of 48.91, set one day prior leading off Cali’s 400 medley relay. The previous American Record stood at 48.92, set by Matt Grevers at the 2015 Duel In The Pool.
Competing for the Condors in Match 2 of the ISL regular season, held on Saturday and Sunday after Energy Standard opened the campaign with a Match 1 victory Thursday/Friday, Stewart’s showcase didn’t stop with his 100 back exploits.
The 23-year-old NC State grad also won the men’s 50 back in a time of 22.61, moving him into a tie for fifth all-time in the event, set a lifetime best to take third in the 200 back in 1:52.15, and dominated the men’s backstroke skins with a 2.6-second victory in the final round against teammate Justin Ress.
Coming into the meet, Stewart’s SCM lifetime bests in the backstroke events were 22.76, 49.62 and 1:54.55, all set during Season 2 last fall.
His opening leg on the 400 medley relay swim was also crucial in leading the Condors to the win in the event, with his split close to two seconds clear of the next-fastest swimmer and the club ultimately winning the race by almost three seconds.
Another facet of Stewart’s overall performance that cannot be overlooked is the fact that he won MVP honors for the match, outscoring teammate Caeleb Dressel—who had been the highest-scoring swimmer in eight of his nine career ISL appearances through the first two seasons of the league—by two points with 95.
Of course, Stewart was the beneficiary of having the opportunity to race the match-ending skins, and Dressel wasn’t, but that does nothing to diminish Stewart’s performance.
The real game-breaker that led to his MVP win was the world record swim in the 100 back, where he jackpotted the entire field and scored 37 points.
Beyond Dressel, Stewart is 31 points clear of the third-highest scoring swimmer through the early stages of the season, with Tokyo Frog King Daiya Seto holding down that spot from Match 2 with 64 points, while Energy Standard’s Sarah Sjostrom won the MVP in Match 1 with 60.5.
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