November 20, 2020
By Alan Baldwin
LONDON (Reuters) – Swimmers could set world records and hit the jackpot at the International Swimming League (ISL) season finals in Budapest this weekend.
‘Jackpot times’, new for 2020, allow race winners in the pro series to steal points from rivals if they beat them by a big enough margin.
Teams have been racing behind closed doors in Budapest since Oct. 16 and the final four are Energy Standard, Cali Condors, LA Current and London Roar — two from the United States and two from Europe.
Three short course world records have been set already, with Britain’s Adam Peaty smashing the 100m breaststroke record in 55.49 seconds last Sunday.
American Caeleb Dressel became the first man through the 50 second barrier in the 100m Individual Medley when the Olympic and world champion swam a record 49.88 in the 25m pool on Monday to scoop a 30 point jackpot.
Dutch swimmer Kira Toussaint, Peaty’s London Roar team mate, set a 50m backstroke world record of 25.60 on Nov. 14.
“Based on what I’ve seen over the last several meets and the progression of certain swimmers, I could guess there’s going to be multiple records at the finals,” Cali Condors general manager Jason Kezak told reporters on Friday.
“They want to do everything they can to help the team. So if setting a world record gets jackpot points, they’re going to go for a world record because they know that’s going to score them more points,” added the four-times Olympic gold medallist.
The ISL, which was launched in 2019 and features more than 300 swimmers from 50 countries, has promised $6 million of prize money over the five week event.
The focus is team-centric, with the main emphasis on touching the wall first and winning points.
LA Current general manager Larry Krayzelburg, another four times U.S. Olympic gold medallist, said jackpots had become an important part of the strategy, however.
“People are… peaking towards the final. So naturally you can expect we’re going to see some stuff we haven’t seen before,” he said.
London Roar manager Rob Woodhouse, a 1984 Olympic bronze medallist in the 400m medley, said even rivals would be excited to see Dressel go faster.
“We’d all probably agree any world record is pretty special, even for another team. Someone like Caeleb with the 100IM the other day, if he breaks a world record this weekend we’ll be pretty excited about it as well,” he said.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Pritha Sarkar)