It was the most unusual of years. Twelve months ago we were looking forward to the drama of Olympic trials, weeks of fevered speculation ahead of the Tokyo Games with the added bonus of season 2 of the International Swimming League to follow. But life had other ideas and as it was, we only had the last of those events to savour. Against that backdrop, the swimmers of the year have an inevitable sense of deja-vu, as well as a shorter format that usual and an unmistakeable ISL flavour, but here are the pick of the GB crop for 2020.
It was the year where Duncan Scott’s versatility came to the fore as he smashed his way through the ISL season for the London Roar. And it was that range as well as the quality of the performances that gave him the nod in this category.
British Records in the 200m freestyle, propelling him to 4th all time, and the 200 Individual Medley were set along with a host of vital relay performances, before rounding off the ISL final with a dominating victory in the 400 IM, just a whisker outside his own British Record.
Yes we all marvelled at Freya’s short course prowess in Budapest, but she was one of few British swimmers to also make a mark in the big pool this year, with a fiery 1:56.06 long course 200 free way back in January, a swim that moved her to third all time on the GB list and had us all eager to see what she could do once the main season rolled round.
That of course was not to be, but at the ISL, she proved she remains a force to be reckoned with in the 25m pool, reeling off a consistently excellent series of swims including two 200m freestyle British records, lifting her into the all time global top 10, and the second fastest 100 freestyle relay split in history with a jaw dropping 50.44.
A memorable year for Adam Peaty out of the pool, as he became a father for the first time, was further enhanced in the water as he spearheaded London Roar’s challenge in Budapest and put a sword to the view that he is not a short course swimmer.
Having set a world record over 100m Breaststroke in the ISL semi final, Adam came to that event in the final with London’s challenge falling away and the LA Current still hot on their heels. He delivered in spades with another world record and victory over his season long rival Ilya Shymanovich. It may well have been the longest glide into the finish anyone has ever seen for a world record result but it was a fantastic swim.
In last year’s ISL Abbie Wood was a bit of “blink and you’ll miss her”. Not so in 2020 as she quickly established herself as one of the NY Breakers premier performers, and proving herself as one of the world’s best SC medley swimmers.
Abbie reeled off a series of performances of real class over all three medley distances, including a British Record in the 200IM of 2:04.77, and showed a good turn of speed over 100 free with some swift relay splits.
The transition from junior champion into the senior ranks has not been an easy one, but Abbie showed this ISL season that the talent she showed in the age group ranks just needed time to blossom. Here’s hoping it can go from strength to strength in the long course season to come.
Banner image Mike Lewis/ISL