By Sharon Robb
INDIANAPOLIS, October 4, 2019—The new International Swimming League kicks off on Saturday with some of the biggest names in swimming competing for cash prizes at IU Natatorium.
The league features eight teams with four of them competing on Saturday and Sunday, the first of six meets in the U.S. and Europe culminating with a splashy season finale in Las Vegas.
Americans Lilly King, Katie Ledecky, Caeleb Dressel and Natalie Coughlin along with world record holder Sarah Sjostrom of Sweden, Chad le Clos of South Africa, Ariarne Titmus of Australia, Federica Pellegrini of Italy and Laszlo Cseh of Hungary will compete this weekend.
King will compete for the Cali Condors, one of four American-based clubs in the league. She will be joined by Dressel, Kylie Masse and Olivia Smoliga.
The three other American clubs are DC Trident, LA Current and NY Breakers. The international teams are Italy-based Aqua Centurions, France-based Energy Standard, Hungary-based Iron and London Roar.
On Saturday and Sunday, the Condors will compete against DC Trident, Energy Standard and Italy-based Aqua Centurions.
South Florida Aquatic Club’s Alia Atkinson, 30, a four-time Jamaican Olympian, will compete in the league for Team Iron, led by Iron Woman Katinka Hosszu of Hungary, who owns the team. Atkinson is one of more than 100 Olympians on the eight teams including 41 gold medals from the 2016 Rio Olympics.
“I’m very excited to be part of this huge movement,” Hosszu said. “I know that we are going to change a lot of things in the sport of swimming. For me, it’s more like a double excitement because I’m an owner of Team Iron and a swimmer in Team Iron, so I see how both sides and how everything unfolds.”
At 37, Natalie Coughlin will compete in her first meet since the 2016 Olympic Trials. She was 12 Olympic medals that equals the most ever by a female swimmer.
There will be no heats. The events will be held over two hours in a 25-meter pool featuring four swimmers per final.
Swimmers will race for team points, with relays worth double. Skins sprints feature three heats, with eight swimmers reduced to four and then a head-to-head of the fastest two. Points earned in skins are worth triple.
The top four finishers in each race are eligible for prize money beyond what they receive from team revenue. The ISL has committed to a 50-50 split of revenue with the teams and swimmers, who receive base salaries as well.
Other ISL stops are in Italy, Texas, Hungary, Washington, D.C., and London. The top two teams from the U.S. and Europe after the six regular-season meets advance to the finals on Dec. 20-21.
Two aspects the ISL has implemented outside of the pool is a zero tolerance stance on doping (any athlete with a positive test is not allowed to compete) and equal pay between men and women.
Also, every ISL competitor will have access to financial benefits, including substantial prize money, personal insurance and pension plans. Each of them have signed two contracts – one with their team and another with the league – with central revenues, generated through sales of sponsorship, media rights and merchandise, distributed equitably.
Each team will pay its swimmers from a total salary budget of $150,000, with additional cash bonuses offered based on performance.
Ukrainian Konstantin Grigorishin, the ISL’s founder and financier, talks about bringing a “paradigm shift” in swimming, a sport he believes has huge untapped commercial potential but which has suffered from inertia on the part of Fina, which controls the amateur sport.
ESPN will provide live and delayed streaminh of the ISL on ESPN3, which can be accessed through the ESPN app. It will also be shown on CBC Sports for Canadian viewers.
5-6 October 2019 – IU Natatorium, Indianapolis, USA
12-13 October 2019 – Aquatic Swimming Complex, Naples, Italy
19-20 October 2019 – The LISD Westside Aquatic Center, Lewisville, Texas, USA
26-27 October 2019 – Duna Area, Budapest, Hungary
16-17 November 2019 – Natatorium at the Eppley Recreation Center, Maryland, USA
23-24 November 2019 – London Aquatic Centre, Great Britain
20-21 December 2019 – Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, Las Vegas, USA
Sharon Robb can be reached at email@example.com