ISL Day Two Notes: Cali Condors’ Lilly King Puts On Dominant Show
Following an eight-month absence due to the COVID-19 pandemic that has inflicted havoc around the world, the sight of global racing (in any format) was greatly desired by athletes, coaches, fans and the media. And that is exactly what the International Swimming League provided over the past two days, as the league’s second season got underway with action in Budapest.
While the Cali Condors claimed the first victory of the campaign on Saturday, the more notable storyline was seeing athletes from the various continents facing off in a competitive setting. The races provided a sense of normalcy and filled a void that has stretched on for the better part of a year. Obvious uncertainties remain pertaining to COVID-19, but for now, the ISL is occupying a key role in the sport.
Here are a few things that stood out as the first meet of the ISL season wrapped.
King is Queen
Other competitors have raced more frequently, but no swimmer has been as dominant as the Cali Condors’ Lilly King during the early days of the ISL’s second season. Remaining undefeated in breaststroke action on the ISL stage, the Indiana University graduate won the 50, 100 and 200 breaststroke events in her 2020 debut, and later won the 50 breaststroke as part of the Skins action.
But being 18-for-18 in breaststroke events over her five career ISL meets only tells part of King’s story – and dominance. In this season’s opener, King collected 58 points in breaststroke competition, thanks to performances that blew away the field. More than anyone, the American took advantage of the ISL’s new Jackpot system (more on that below) by stealing a bundle of points from her fellow competitors.
By racing the three regular breaststroke events, King had the chance to race 21 competitors, and she was able to steal points via the Jackpot program from 12 of her opponents. Those bonus points, awarded for decisive wins over the opposition, went a long way toward the Cali Condors’ victory.
King added to her dominance in the Skins event that capped the meet, as she won all three rounds, including the final over Condors teammate Molly Hannis in a convincing manner. King, who again stole Jackpot points, collected 87.5 points in the two-day meet to take the lead in the MVP standings, with Energy Standard’s Sarah Sjostrom in the No. 2 position with 66.5 points.
Defending the Shields
Oftentimes, veterans lead their teams vocally. For the L.A. Current, Tom Shields’ performance spoke loudly, as the longtime Team USA member produced an excellent weekend. Shields accounted for four victories between Friday and Saturday, as he won the 100 butterfly and 200 butterfly individually, and contributed to a pair of triumphant Current relays.
The individual wins, though, stand out greater when a look is given to whom Shields defeated. In the 100 fly, Shields got to the wall ahead of countryman Caeleb Dressel, while his 200 fly decision came at the expense of South African and Energy Standard stalwart Chad Le Clos. Those are two of the biggest names in the sport, and Shields also added a third-place finish in the 50 fly, where he finished behind Dressel and Frenchman Florent Manaudou of Energy Standard.
An Energy Boost
An argument can be made that Energy Standard’s acquisition of Siobhan Haughey from the D.C. Trident might be the biggest personnel move of the offseason in terms of athletes switching teams. Not only did Energy Standard take one of D.C.’s leading performers, it strengthened the roster of the defending champion and gave coach James Gibson more depth and maneuverability with his lineup.
Haughey made her debut with Energy Standard an impressive one as she set Asian records in the 100 freestyle and 200 freestyle (1:51.67) on Saturday. That performance complemented a strong showing on Day One, where the University of Michigan product was the runnerup in the 400 freestyle and helped Energy Standard prevail in the 400 freestyle relay.
Slated to represent Hong Kong at next summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo, Haughey will be a leading medal contender in the 200 freestyle. Although the event figures to be among the deepest at the Games, Haughey has consistently elevated her status on the world stage and her time trial of 1:54.44 in August confirmed her presence as a podium contender.
The introduction of the Jackpot quirk in the scoring system has been both unpredictable and intriguing. As a refresher, the Jackpot system allows the event winner to steal points from rivals in the field who are unable to finish within a specified timeframe compared to the victor. If the winner is able to Jackpot the bottom-two finishers in the race, three points are gained.
However, the big swings from this twist are evident when the event winner can Jackpot three or more opponents. In Saturday’s action, for example, Lilly King was able to Jackpot five foes in the 100 breaststroke, allowing her to garner 24 points for the Cali Condors – nine points for her victory, and 15 more in stolen points.
The opportunity for a squad to turn to one of its dominant performers will consistently have coaches considering their options and looking to seize on the weakness of the opposition. More, trailing squads can possess comeback hopes for a longer period if it’s apparent they have a Jackpot opportunity ahead.