The ISL

Do you swim fast enough to compete in the ISL?

I have examined the results from the ISL 2021 season to answer the following questions:

  • How fast do you have to swim to participate in the ISL?
  • Which level is required to contribute to your team winning the season?
  • Or how fast do you need to swim for winning a ISL event?

What is the ISL?

First, it may be helpful to give a brief explanation of the ISL. For those of you who have not familiarized yourself with the swimming nation’s new venture, the ISL stands for the International Swim League.

The introductory video below explains the goal for the ISL:

The league started in 2019 and has just completed its third season. It still remains to be seen whether the ISL will reach its goals. Unfortunately, the covid-19 epidemic came pretty soon after launch. In other words, it has placed a limit on the physical presence of the competitions. That is unfortunate for an event that stimulates spectator participation.

One point the league has managed is to gather the best athletes. You will quickly notice this when looking at the competition level of the results below. Not only do they swim fast, but they swim fast time and time again.

The ISL compared to the World Championship.

The final time for 100 meters free for men during the world championship 2021 was 47.07 and, the winning time was 45.57. In the same vein, the average time after 18 competitions during the ISL season 2021, the average time to get a minimum of 1 point for your team was 47.57. Furthermore, the average winning time on the event was 46.17. In other words, The ISL offers competitions close to the world championship level for 18 competitions per season.

Times are changing.

I was a good enough swimmer to qualify for the major championships. I have competed in the European Championships, the World Cups, and the World Championships. However, I was not good enough to qualify for finals or semi-finals. However, this resulted in me having a premium seat for some of the best races of my generation.

I got to see Stefan Nystrand’s races during the World Cup (2007) in Berlin. Here he became the first in the world to swim under 46 seconds in the 100-meter freestyle (45.83). I also got a front-row seat to the legendary duel between Ryan Lochte and Markus Rogan during the World Championships in Manchester (2008). They both became the first in the world to swim under 1: 50.00 in the 200-meter backstroke. However, Markus kept the underwater kicks better than Ryan through the race. Especially during the last 25 m. That resulted in his victory and a world record of 1: 47.84. Ryan came right after with the time 1: 47.91.

Back then, these performances were sensational. Consequently, it is almost surrealistic for me to follow today’s ISL. Not only do these athletes swim faster. The average time to win 50 free under ISL was 20.93. In the same vein, the average time for 200 backstrokes was 1: 49.96. Both times are under the times that was the world record when I was active. In other words, the level and the depth of the performances are on a whole other level.

The results.

Here you can see an overview of the results from the ISL 2021 season. The time listed in () shows the difference between the fastest and slowest time for the given event.

The average calculation for scoring above-average points bases itself on fourth place. In other words, you will have scored more points per event than half of the participants of the given event. On the other hand, if the athletes loses points because of the Jackpot rule. Then the last position that gave points was used in the calculation. For example, at the world record race of Coleman Stewart, the last point place was the first place. Since, Coleman ended up with all the points. The same goes for calculating the minimum time for scoring points.

Analyses of results from the ISL

Analyses of the womens ISL results

Swim distance Average winning time Average time for fourth place Average time for last point placement
50 butterfly 25.01(0.76) 25.54(0.75) 25.88(0.69)
100 butterfly 55.58(1.69) 56.96(1.08) 57.40(2.05)
200 butterfly 2:05.29(3) 2:07.43(2.28) 2:09.24(3.68)
50 backstroke 26.22(0.76) 26.59(0.63) 27.04(0.9)
100 backstroke 56.19(1.95) 57.36(1.54) 57.88(1.84)
200 backstroke 2:01.97(3.63) 2:04.74(4.50) 2:05.75(5.40)
50 breastroke 29.44(0.71) 30.17(1.10) 30.42(0.89)
100 breastroke 1:04.16(1.68) 1:05.55(1.70) 1:06.12(1.84)
200 breastroke 2:18.29 2:21.12(3.19) 2:22.81(2.94)
50 free 23.53(1.11) 24.14(0.84) 24.34(+-0.84)
100 free 51.45(1.20) 52.34(1.51) 53.16(1.48)
200 free 1:52.82(3.52) 1:55.37(2.90) 1:56.52(3.52)
400 free 4:00.40(6.90) 4:05.77(4.93) 4:08.65(5.83)
100 IM 58.95(1.36) 58.95(1.39) 59.92(1.72)
200 IM 2:05.69(1.92) 2:08.42(3.42) 2:09.75(2.79)
400 IM 4:28.86(4.45) 4:35.26(9.40) 4:37.61(6.79)

Analyses of the mens ISL results

Swim distance Average winning time Average time for fourth place Average time for last point placement
50 butterfly 22.23(0.68) 22.78(0.45) 22.97(0.56)
100 butterfly 49.27(1.83) 50.38(0.85) 50.93(1.26)
200 butterfly 1:51.42(1.76) 1:52.84(3.38) 1:54.42(3.66)
50 backstroke 22.83(0.69) 23.56(o.44) 23.57(0.82)
100 backstroke 49.39(1.76) 50.49(3.04) 50.81(3.26)
200 backstroke 1:49.96(3.86) 1:52.28(3.54) 1:53.50(4.90)
50 breastroke 25.82(0.86) 26.36(0.90) 26.65(0.88)
100 breastroke 56.17(1.81) 57.63(1.78) 58.10(1.57)
200 breastroke 2:03.28(2.30) 2:05.32(2.95) 2:06.99(3.51)
50 free 20.93(0.52) 21.33(0.51) 21.61(0.82)
100 free 46.17(1.33) 47.03(0.84) 47.57(1.16)
200 free 1:42.41(3.38) 1:44.14(2.29) 1:45.53(2.11)
400 free 3:40.27(5.39) 3:43.85(4.21) 3:47.18(5.46)
100 IM 51.60(1.59) 52.60(1.10) 53.27(2.2)
200 IM 1:52.36(2.52) 1:54.56(2.71) 1:56.25(3.41)
400 IM 4:01.50(6.41) 4:07.25(8.11) 4:09.81(6.19)

The ISL jackpot rule

If the winner of a race is ahead of one or more athletes or team(s) in his/her/their race by a margin bigger than the jackpot time, the points of these athletes/teams are awarded to the winner of the race. Theoretically, the winner of the race that out-touches all of their opponents by more than the jackpot time, they can earn 37 points in an individual race (individual jackpot), 74 points in a relay (relay jackpot) and 85 points in a skin race, if he/she manages to out-touch all of his/her opponents in all three stages by more than the jackpot time (triple jackpot). In case of individual or relay jackpot, all three other clubs receive 0 points for the race. In case an athlete fails to show up for a race or gets disqualified, the winner of the race will be awarded with his/her points and that swimmer will receive 0 points and his/her club will receive a penalty according to the “penalties” table. The jackpot times are found on the table on the following page:

Jacpot Times

Jacpot Times

Short course meters

Men Women
50 free 0.85 0.95
100 free 1.80 2.05
200 free 4.00 4.50
100 of 400 free 1.80 2.00
400 free 8.50 9.40
50 back 0.90 1.05
100 back 2.00 2.20
200 back 4.30 4.80
50 breast 1.05 1.15
100 breast 2.25 2.50
200 breast 5.00 5.40
50 fly 0.90 1.00
100 fly 1.95 2.20
200 fly 4.40 4.80
100 IM 2.00 2.30
200 IM 4.40 4.90
200 of 400 IM 4.40 4.80
400 IM 9.40 10.40

How fast do you have to swim to participate in the ISL?

The result list gives you a good insight into how fast you have to swim to take points within a single event. However, I feel compelled to point out that it will not be good enough to swim one race inside those times. You must be able to perform at this level consistently. And most importantly, you should be able to score points on more than one event. Each team can only have 14 athletes of each gender on their team. Consequently, they are looking for athletes that can score points in several events.

So if you have the goal of joining the ISL, then start by swimming in for two to three exercises within the minimum requirements outlined above. Maybe then you will be considered for one of the teams.

What does it take to help your team win the season in the ISL?

You need to collect more than just the minimum of points per event to contribute to your team winning.

The team needs you to pick up more points than at least half of the field. Your points added to your teammate will hopefully give your team the overall event win. Because the ISL is a team sport. Although the focus is often on the winner of the event. The combined score from the team’s two athletes is more important. We have seen several examples of teams scoring more points without capturing first place.

Each team needs at least two heavy hitters to take jackpot points. However, it is the athletes behind these heavy hitters that will tip the scale to your teams advantage. Therefore, every ISL team will probably look for those athletes that can raise the average level behind their star swimmers.

How fast do you need to swim before winning in the ISL event?

Based on the results shown above, it is pretty clear where your level must be to win an event. The victory times will depend on which competitors are competing in each event. However, the overview above gives you a good idea of ​​what level you need to perform to ensure an event victory. By all means, you may win with slower times than this. However, the performances are so high throughout the season that it will be unlikely.

Exceptions to the rule.

Take notice, the scoring system for 400 free and 400 IM is a little different from the other exercises. You can read how it differs here:

  • 400m freestyle: This event provides a total of 53 points (instead of 37). There will be a checkpoint at the 100m mark, where the top 5 swimmers of the event at that moment will have the opportunity to score:
    i) 6 points
    ii) 4 points
    iii) 3 points
    iv) 2 points
    v) 1 pointbr
    There will not be a cutoff time at the checkpoint but there will be a jackpot time, which is found earlier on the Jackpot Times table. If at end of the event, a swimmer is jackpotted (at the 400m finish), then if that swimmer had earned any points at the 100m checkpoint, he / she loses those points to the relevant swimmer(s) that passed the 100m checkpoint after him / her.
  • 400m IM: This event provides a total of 53 points (instead of 37). There will be a checkpoint at the 200m mark, where the top 5 swimmers of the event at that moment will have the opportunity to score:

  • i) 6 points
    ii) 4 points
    iii) 3 points
    iv) 2 points
    v) 1 points
    There will not be a cutoff time at the checkpoint but there will be a jackpot time, which is found earlier on the Jackpot Times table. If at end of the event, a swimmer is jackpotted (at the 400m finish), then if that swimmer had earned any points at the 200m checkpoint, he / she loses those points to the relevant swimmer(s) that passed the 200m checkpoint after him / her.

    In other words, it will not be enough for a swimmer to be able to swim at the level represented in the table above. They should be able to swim at this level while maintaining a higher opening speed than one would usually have done in a well-disposed race. During the 2021 season, I have seen several examples of athletes who have finished in sixth to eighth place and still have collected more points than most of the heat. On the other hand, we have seen athletes who have collected 6 points from their opening but lost everything because the last part of the race was too weak.

    Conclusion.

    Consequently, if you want to qualify for the ISL, then train yourself to achieve a minimum level in several events (consult the table above). Preferably through several swim strokes. Thereby, the teams will use you in the best possible way according to their other athletes.

    If you want to assert yourself, then your level should be up to fourth place on more events. And if you want to contribute to your team, then it is an advantage to have at least one event with a potential for victory, while two or three events at a fourth-place level.

    Finally, you should make sure that you can maintain this level throughout the season.

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