International Swimming League – Season 2 In Budapest; Final In Tokyo, Talks (& COVID-19 Developments) Pending

2020-09-09 Reading Time: 4 minutes
Adam Peaty - A Roar In Red - courtesy of Arena

The International Swimming League announced the shape of things to come today: after a successful launch of the team competition event last year, Season 2, while being shaped by the COVID-19 pandemic, will be staged largely in Budapest, Hungary (the final may be in Tokyo), will feature two new teams and include a Jackpot Times winner-takes-all feature.

  • See team rosters below

The rounds of the competition and associated Solidarity camp will run in Budapest between October 16 to November 15, 2020. The ISL is holding talks with Tokyo with a view to holding the grand final of the series in the Japanese capital. The Solidarity measure includes standard payments of US$1,500 for each athlete per month between September this year and June next year.

Originally, the ISL had planned to pay the minimum of $1500 to each swimmer in the League but some swimmers were due to have been paid bonuses ands might have expected payments of up to $3,500 a month for status and marketability.

Swimming is a sport struggling to keep clubs afloat and coaches in jobs far and wide. The ISL Solidarity sport recognises that struggle but extends only those 320 swimmers in the League, part of the elite tip of a massive iceberg of swimmers around the world.

Konstantin Grigorishin, the founder and funder of the League, was asked if the League going ahead with its event in a year that the Olympic Games cannot go ahead represented a changing of the guard. “Good question”, said Grigorishin with a hint of competitive amusement.

In fact, the question was one in which chalk and cheese were being compared: ISL – 320 swimmers; Olympic Games – 10,000 athletes across 27 sports. Grigorishin noted that the ISL was about “sport-tainment and game-ification and was not competing with the Olympic Games.”

The next level of the ISL – which would speak more strongly to the “gamification” of the would not unfold until Season 3 in 2021, Grigorishin indicated.

“We are different,” he noted, later adding that the League had an “asteroid problem”. The uncertainty of COVID-19 could not be removed: it had to be worked around – and the ISL was doing that with specialists, experts and the commitment of its entire team wedded to safety and flexibility of approach.

Among news lines was the choice of Katie Ledecky, the world’s No 1 woman swimmer, not to race in the League this year, as she prepares for the postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in 2021; and two new teams, the Toronto Titans and the Tokyo Frog Kings, take the number of squads to 10 this year.

The live feed – below – included (includes – because you can watch it live or later on reel…) Olympic 100m breaststroke champions Adam Peaty and Lilly King and her national teammate, multiple World Champion Caeleb Dressel, ISL Season 1 World-record setter Minna Atherton, Sweden’s pioneer and Olympic 100m ‘fly champion Sarah Sjöstrom and Energy teammate Chad le Clos, Olympic 200 ‘fly champion and the first clean man home over 200m freestyle at Rio 2016, along with waves of other Olympic and World champions, their coaches and managers.

Among coaching changes is the arrival of Jonty Skinner as Cali Condors head coach.

Among team switches are Vladimir Morozov‘s switch from Iron to the Tokyo Frog Kings, while Energy Standard, Season 1 winners, has signed up Olympic 50m free champion Pernille Blume, Olympic 100m backstroke champion of 2012 Matt Grevers, Hong Kong’s 200 free ace Siobhan Haughey and the man who beat Sun Yang for the World 200m free crown last year only to find himself disqualified for a start too fast – Danas Rapsys.

The squad that brought the biggest challenge to Energy in Season 1, London Roar, has signed up young sprinter Freya Anderson and her GBR teammate and fellow sprinter Ana Hopkin, American breaststroke ace Annie Lazor, Dutch backstroke riser Kira Toussaint and Greek medley man Andreas Vazaios.

In Season 2, the ISL will run anti-doping tests on all swimmers every five days during the competition and camp phase of the League.

Winner-Takes-All Jackpot Times

There are some tweaks to competition formats this year, including a Jackpot Times rule that allows one outstanding swimmer and performance to claim a winner-takes-all prize that soaks up all the points of others in a race. The basics:

  1. all 74 points in a relay which is called a “relay jackpot”
  2. all 85 points in a skins race, if he/she manages to win all three rounds by more than the jackpot time which is called a “triplejackpot
  3. The jackpot times will be posted on the ISL website.

To the relief of many, the global pandemic caused the postponement of the ISL’s original plans for a season that would stretch over northern winter for six months and include 27 meets.

Spectators will not be present, COVID-19 ruling that out. Safety first is the mantra for the ISL and the athletes and others taking part in Season 2. The show will be TV only.

Safety may also dictate that swimmers and others will be confined to the ISL ‘bubble’ and will not be able to socialise outsides that: no Budapest bars and restaurants and so forth. Hungary closed its borders recently and the development of the pandemic will shape the way the ISL event will pan out (and even if it can take place at all).

International Swimming League Line-Ups – 2020:

The details of rules and ratings and formats can be found on the ISL website.

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