Despite the television announcers saying over and over again that “the times don’t matter,” the headlines from the International Swimming League final in Las Vegas were two world Short-Course records, both set on Friday:
● Men/50 m Freestyle: 20.24, Caeleb Dressel (USA) ~ old, 20.26, Florent Manaudou (FRA), 2014.
● Men/400 m Medley: 3:54.81, Daiya Seto (JPN) ~ old, 3:55:50, Ryan Lochte (USA), 2010.
In addition, the U.S. record book saw new marks in eight events:
● Men/50 m Freestyle: 20.24, Caeleb Dressel
● Men/100 m Freestyle: 45.22, Dressel
● Men/50 m Breaststroke: 25.75, Nic Fink
● Men/50 m Butterfly: 22.06, Dressel
● Women/50 m Breaststroke: 28.90, Lilly King
● Women/400 m Medley: 4:24.15, Melanie Margalis
● Women/4×100 m Freestyle: 3:27.65, Olivia Smoliga, Kelsi Dahlia, Natalie Hinds, Mallory Comerford (Cali Condors)
Fink won the 200 m Breast and finished just 0.01 off the American Record of Cody Miller in 2:02.34. He upset British Breaststroke superstar Adam Peaty to win the 50 m Breast with his American Record of 25.75.
But the individual stars were Dressel and Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom. Dressel won the Most Valuable Player award for the finals, winning five of his six individual events (plus relays):
1) 100 m Fly
7) 50 m Breast
1) 50 m Free ~ World Record
1) 100 m Free
1) 50 m Fly
1) 50 m Free Skins
Sjostrom beat out Dressel for the season’s Most Valuable Player title and an extra $50,000, competing in five individual events (plus relays):
4) 100 m Fly
1) 50 m Free
2) 100 m Free
2) 50 m Fly
1) 50 m Free Skins
Just as impressive was American Breaststroke star Lilly King, who not only won the 50-100-200 m events in Las Vegas, but completed a perfect season with 12 wins in 12 tries in her four meets in those events. Japan’s Seto also grabbed three wins at the meet, winning both medleys plus the 200 m Fly.
The team title went to Energy Standard, nominally based in Turkey, which clinched the meet with Sjostrom’s win in the women’s 50 m Free Skins race and Manaudou making the men’s Skins final. They ended with 453.5 points to 444.0 for the London Roar, 415.5 for the Cali Condors and 318.0 for the L.A. Current.
The meet featured the usual heavy television production values, masking small crowds on both days at the Mandalay Bay Events Center, which had already been reduced from its normal 12,000 capacity to 3,708 for the meet.
The ISL announced after the meet that the league would expand to 10 teams for 2020 with teams in Toronto, Canada and Tokyo, Japan. According to ISL, “The 2020-2021 season of the ISL is scheduled to run from September to April with 27 matches taking place, including regular season, playoffs and the Grand Final.”
ISL founder and funder, Ukrainian energy billionaire Konstantin Grigorishin, told the Wall Street Journal that “he will invest between $60 and $70 million next year as the ISL adds two teams, 20 more meets and another $4 million in prize money. He hopes to offset costs by selling expanded media rights to an American broadcast company.
“‘This season we are not expecting to make big money,’ said Grigorishin, who will most likely see multimillion dollar losses for the ISL’s debut year. ‘I think next year our target is to break even, but this is an upside scenario.’”
While attendance was pretty modest for the first season, the swimmers are hoping the league will succeed. Said Rio triple Backstroke gold medalist Ryan Murphy to the Journal, “The money is pretty sparse in the sport of swimming right now. This is the best opportunity we’ve had to professionalize.”