Max Litchfield on International Swimming League boosting swimmers in tough year

“It has been a year to forget for most of us but the ISL really gave everyone something to work towards and something to be proud of and build from ahead of the 2021 season – and Olympic year take two!”

The words of British swimmer Max Litchfield who recently returned home after competing in the International Swimming League.

The Sky Sports Scholar reflects on a challenging year but some hope after a stunning event in Hungary.

Looking back on my six-week journey in the ISL bubble, it’s hard not to feel sad that it’s over. However, I do feel grateful for the opportunity to race and train with the best in the world while most of the world was in lockdown.

For anyone who is hearing about the ISL for the first time, it is a professional Swimming League comprised of 10 teams from across the globe. This second season had all 10 teams meet in Budapest for six weeks to battle it out head to head with a grand final to crown the champions.

In the first season I was part of the Energy Standard team and in Las Vegas last December, I lifted the trophy with the team as we were pronounced inaugural champions.

This year I was one of the lucky ones who managed to get re-signed, so went into the bubble with the same team ready to defend our title. In our first match of the season, we faced off against the Cali Condors, LA Current and NY Breakers.

We went in with high hopes having never been beaten before in ISL history! However, after 2 days and a well-fought battle, we suffered our first loss as the Condors took victory – we had to rethink our tactics!

Unfortunately for me personally this is where the tide turned and I picked up an illness which took me out of the water for five days. Thankfully my team rode on in fine form and took care of the next two matches as I watched on from the sidelines.

A few days later I was back in the water and started feeling good again. I went into that meet and absolutely loved it. Just to be racing again was so amazing and even better was that the team pulled off another awesome win to finish second in the league behind the yet undefeated Condors.

In the semi-final, we were up against the London Roar, Tokyo Frog Kings and the NY Breakers. This was our toughest match so far and London gave us a close meet but we managed to pull off victory and set ourselves up for a finals appearance.

What an opportunity, what a spectacle to be part of and amongst the year that has been 2020, just being there and in that arena was an honour for me and I loved every minute. What an amazing situation we had and the chance to retain our title.

After two very hard-fought days, the Cali Condors won but it was an awesome fight to see everyone racing so hard and fast.

I would have loved to have swum faster and would have loved the team to come out on top, but that is life – sometimes the other person, or team, in this case, are better.

But we move on and refocus on the rest of this season and also shine a light towards the Olympic Games and ISL season 3 which will hopefully happen some time next year.

I have been so lucky to swim and race with the best swimmers of my generation and I am very proud and honoured to be part of the Energy Standard team once again.

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