Sjostrom pips Dressel for first ISL MVP crown
published : 22 Dec 2019 at 08:46
LAS VEGAS - Sarah Sjostrom dominated Cate Campbell in the final round of the freestyle skins race to lock up International Swimming League's first season Most Valuable Player award as the glitzy new series concluded on Saturday.
The Swedish Olympian's storming finish helped boost her Energy Standard outfit to the team title in the fast-paced professional league, designed to shake up swimming and expand the profile of a sport whose biggest moments traditionally come at the Olympics and World Championship.
And it saw her scoop the $50,000 season MVP with 243.5 points, just 3.5 points ahead of US star Caeleb Dressel.
"I'm very happy I was able to take this title," said Sjostrom, who said the star-studded lineup and frantic all-finals format of the series made for a pressure-filled campaign.
"I was racing some of my biggest competitors in almost every race I had," she said. "I'm not used to that tough racing that often so it was very good experience to race with that much pressure so often.
"I felt like I was swimming the world championships four times this season."
Sjostrom said the fact that ISL pitted men against women for the major season award was a drawing factor for her in an age when equality of pay in all walks of life, including sports, is a hot topic.
"I think this is one of the best parts about the ISL that we race against the men," she said.
Dressel, meanwhile, said he had no problem seeing a woman capture the crown.
"I don't see that as any honor lost," he said. "Yeah I got beat by a girl today -- and I'm all right with that."
Dressel, whose record eight medals at this year's world championships included six golds, won the men's skins race ahead of France's Florent Manaudou and locked up the meet MVP award, worth $10,000.
Dressel, racing for Cali Condors, also won the 100m free and 50m fly on Saturday as he took his tally of individual wins this weekend to five. That included a 50m free triumph in which he broke Manaudou's short course world record on Friday.
While Manaudou couldn't avenge that in the skins race, the French swimmer's runner-up finish saw Energy Standard seize the points title ahead of the London Roar -- who had led the standings much of the day.
Cali Condors were third and LA Current fourth.
Japan's Daiya Seto, making his series debut this week for Energy Standard, proved a key addition for his new team.
He followed up his world record 400m individual medley win with victories in the 200m IM and the 200m butterfly.
London had surged to the top of the table with six wins. That included Briton Adam Peaty's 100m breaststroke victory in a blistering 55.92sec.
Aussie Emma McKeon got the ball rolling for London with a victory in the 100m free, clocking 51.38 to hold off Sjostrom with Campbell third.
- Resiliency -
Dressel opened his day with a blazing 45.22 in the 100m free. He won the 50m fly in 22.06 ahead of Chad le Clos and Manaudou.
Energy Standard general manager James Gibson said the team recruited its swimmers with an eye toward the big points events of the skins races and relays, and that paid off.
He noted that overall Energy Standard might not be the best on paper, but said his swimmers' resiliency was key.
"If you look on paper we were not the strongest team," Gibson said. "We won when it mattered, the triple points, the skins and the relays.
"Today we were 37 points behind at one point and we won."
Manaudou -- who put them over the top -- said that's what made the season so exciting.
"This is why we watch sport," he said. "There is a team on paper, but it can be different in the water."