Indianapolis will stage the first round of the new International Swimming League (ISL) this weekend.
It's an exciting new international event for swimming and the calibre isn't bad either. Over 100 Olympians are represented by the ISL, including 41 Olympic gold medals from the 2016 Olympic Games.
The league brings several new concepts to the sport, as for the first time ever swimmers will compete for professional clubs with a base salary and lots of prize money on the table.
With the new event format, there's a bit to understand about the teams (professional clubs), rules, points system and who's racing.
Team strategies will likely be all over the map and very creative early on in the season as coaches and general managers learn more about how to maximise their points potential. The most intriguing decisions will be in relays and skins event, which offer point bonuses to athletes but could tax them with extra swims on an already action-packed 2-day meet schedule. Relays will score double the points of an individual event, and the skins events at the end of the meet will be triple.
This is an area where a club like Energy Standard, who are loaded with some of the world’s best sprinters including captains Chad Le Clos and Sarah Sjöström, can reap the rewards.
“Tactically focusing on the skins and relays will give any team a greater windfall of points and we are no exception,” said Energy Standard GM James Gibson.
“The critical thing with the relays is to have two strong teams. There is also a knock on effect to consider with the athletes competing just before or just after the relays so you have to be smart with team selection. There are so many different variables.”
The first four rounds pitch two US-based teams against two Europe-based teams; the subsequent two rounds are knockout Derbys leading to the final season showdown.
This weekend, Group A teams are Cali Condors, DC Trident, both US-based, Energy Standard and the Aqua Centurions, both Europe-based.
Not all the big names listed for those teams will race, they will nominate 12 males and 12 females.
Here's a 'Who’s Who' from the fast lane for each team:
- Katie Ledecky
- Cody Miller
- Zach Apple
- Natalie Coughlin
- Sarah Sjostrom
- Chad le Clos
- Ben Proud
- Penny Oleksiak
- Federica Pellegrini
- Luca Dotto
- Laszlo Cseh
- Sarah Koehler
Australian's named to compete this weekend include: Ariarne Titmus (Cali Condors), Mitch Larkin (Cali Condors), Brianna Throssell (DC Trident) Leisten Pickett (DC Trident), Leah Neale (DC Trident) Tristan Hollard (DC Trident), Georgia Bohl (Aqua Centurions), Kaylee McKeown (Aqua Centurions) Travis Mahoney (Aqua Centurions) and Emily Seebohm (Energy Standard).
The venue for the start of a new Global Pro-Team chapter in swimming is the Indiana University Natatorium (IUPUI).
Here’s What’s New
- No heats, just a two-hour session each day, from 2 to 4pm Eastern Standard Time.
- Each team of multi-nation swimmers will have up to 24 swimmers (12 men, 12 women) at each round, allowable squads of 32 per team.
- Swimmers will race for team points and points make money prizes, a 50:50 share of all revenue pledged to swimmers and teams by the organisers, ISL
- Start lists will not be known until an hour and a half before the start of racing
- Start lists can change during lives action, coaches able to bring in reserves or make other switches during the two 10-minutes breaks scheduled for each of the two-hour sessions.
- 2 athletes will compete per event per club.
- 2 relay teams will compete per relay event per club
- Each team will be allocated specific lanes at each round of the League, the lane draw random for the first race and stuck to for each round
- Indianapolis is the first of six rounds that will feature four teams at each event on rotation, the knockout element of the meet to leave four teams standing come the grand finale in Las Vegas on the cusp win Christmas.
- It’s short course, which is nothing new for many but is rare or even new for a fair number of American swimmers at the heart of a short course yards tradition.
How the Points Work
- 1st 9 points
- 2nd 7 points
- 3rd 6 points
- 4th 5 points
- 5th 4 points
- 6th 3 points
- 7th 2 points
- 8th 1 point
Relay races = double above
- Round 1: 8th to 5th = 1 point up to 4 points
- Round 2: 4th & 3rd = 10, 12 points
- Showdown: 2nd = 21 points; 1st = 27 points
Team Scoring (per match)
- 1st 4 points
- 2nd 3 points
- 3rd 2 points
- 4th 1 point
Most Valuable Player
- The MVP will be named after each match, based on teams points contributed.
- The season MVP will be named at the end of the Final Match in Las Vegas, based on all points contributed to his/her team during the season
Where to Watch
Indianapolis, USA - October 6 & 7
Sydney 5.00am LIVE on 7plus
Melbourne 5.00am LIVE on 7plus
Brisbane 5.00am LIVE on 7plus
Adelaide 4.30am LIVE on 7plus
Perth 3.00am LIVE on 7plus
Two two-hour sessions will cover the entire Olympic program minus the 1500m and the 4x200m but with special relays and skins events. The mixed 4x50m medley relay will only be contested if a tie-breaker between two teams is needed in order to settle final team standings at the end of the competition. Here's hoping we get to see that!
Expect it to be fast-moving. There are:
- 19 events on day 1
- at least 21 events on day 2
- “skins” sprints will feature a knock-out of three heats, with eight swimmers reduced to four and then a head-to-head of the swiftest two.
- best four in skins get triple points (triple the rate of other individual events) – that also means more money chances for sprinters, a feature that has already drawn criticism among swimmers
- relays get double points (double the rate of individual events)
All events are women followed by men in the same strike/distance (unless stated)
Day 1 Racing
- 100 butterfly
- 50 breaststroke
- 400 medley
- 4×100 freestyle relay (women)
- 200 backstroke
- 50 freestyle
- 4×100 medley relay (men)
- 200 freestyle
- 50 backstroke
- 200 breaststroke
- 4×100 freestyle relay (men)
Day 2 Racing
- 100 freestyle
- 100 breaststroke
- 400 freestyle
- 4×100 medley relay (women)
- 200 medley
- 50 butterfly
- 100 backstroke
- 4×100 mixed free relay
- 200 butterfly
- 50 freestyle skins
- 4×50 Mixed Medley (if tie-break required)
- Group A: Indianapolis, USA | October 5-6 | 14:00 local time
- Group A: Naples, ITA | October 12-13 | 19:00 local time
- Group B: Lewisville-Dallas, USA | October 19-20 | 14:00 local time
- Group B: Budapest, HUN | October 26-27 | 18:00 local time
- USA: Washington DC, USA | November 16-17 | 14:00 local time
- Europe: London, GBR | November 23-24 | 17:00 local time
- Showdown Match: Las Vegas, USA | December 20-21 | 13:00 local time
For Australian times and schedules, refer here.