David Salo isn’t a man to rest on his laurels. So while the Head Coach of the Tokyo Frog Kings saw his team make a successful International Swimming League (ISL) debut this weekend, on Monday morning he was back hard at work analyzing the races to ensure his swimmers continue to keep pace in the Duna Arena in Budapest throughout the tournament.
Tokyo is one of two new teams in Season 2020 of the ISL along with the Toronto Titans. Both teams were making their first appearances in Match 3 on Saturday and Sunday, and while Toronto also impressed, it was the Frog Kings who made the bigger splash, finishing second behind LA Current.
The Current concluded the weekend’s races on 535.5 points, with Tokyo not far behind on 506.5. Toronto ended in third with 401, while the Aqua Centurions finished on 260.
Tokyo was leading with four races to go, but strong performances by LA’s Beryl Gastaldello and Ryan Murphy in the women’s and men’s 50m skins elimination race pushed the Frog Kings into second place.
Despite not topping the match standings, it was a highly satisfying debut for the Tokyo outfit.
“We won eight races yesterday and you’d think winning eight races would mean you’d won the meet, but it all came down to the women’s skins,” Salo said.
“We could have formulated a faster team that could have won the relay and dictated what stroke the skins would be. It all turned on the 400m medley relay. If we had changed a few places, we would have been closer and could have won it, which meant we could have chosen the stroke in the skins.
“The expectations were hopeful, but our real expectation was to see if we could be competitive and see if we could make the semifinals,” Salo continued. “We overwhelmed our expectations. I think the athletes did a good job, they stepped up and weren’t overwhelmed by the competition, or the surroundings, or the format.”
Tokyo’s General Manager is four-time Olympic champion Kosuke Kitajima, so together with Salo, the team has plenty of experience to turn to between matches.
The pair witnessed their team win 12 matches over the two days of competition and in the first race they were able to celebrate a first top-three finish when Suzuka Hasegawa came second in the women’s 100m butterfly. For good measure Takeshi Kawamoto matched her performance in the men’s race.
Vladimir Morozov gave Tokyo their first victory when he touched home first in the men’s 50m freestyle. Yui Ohashi and Kosuke Hagino won the women’s and men’s 200m individual medley and Leah Smith enjoyed victory in the women’s 400m freestyle to wrap up a highly satisfying Day 1.
When they returned for Day 2, Tokyo did not wait around to drive home their position. Hasegawa won the women’s 200m butterfly, Runa Imai and Morozov led home the women’s and men’s 100m individual medleys, while Ryosuke Irie added victory in the men’s 100m backstroke.
Miho Teramura secured Tokyo’s 10th victory by winning the women’s 100m breaststroke before Ohashi made it 11 in the women’s 400m individual medley. Hagino made it a dozen when he won the men’s 400m individual medley.
“It was a completely different format for a lot of the swimmers, particularly the Japanese swimmers, the racing format, the two-hour match racing,” Salo said.
“Our ultimate goal was to be top four or five in every single race, and most of the time we were top three in most races. For a different format for these athletes, for the step up in climate, the rapid turnover of the races, they did an amazing job.
“I think the wins were as important as staying in the top four spots. Winning the event wasn’t quite as important. When the match began to unfold it became clear we would be in a really good battle with LA Current. The wins when they came along were exciting, but they were not our sole focus, it was to be in the top four so that we could be competitive.”
The Frog Kings are a strong mix of young Japanese swimmers and an experienced international contingent.
Morozov won four times in Season 2019 for Iron, while on the women’s team Catherine DeLoof and Simona Kubova competed for NY Breakers and DC Trident in Season 2019.
Hasegawa, Kawamoto, Ohashi, Hagino and Imai are all aged 20 and among Japan’s most promising swimmers. All five enjoyed victories in Match 3 to underline the potential they bring to the Frog Kings’ roster in ISL Season 2020.
“The more experienced guys have been helpful in keeping a calm demeanor in the team,” Salo said. “Do not get over-excited, do your warm-down.
“The key was to develop, as soon as we could, a team culture. We were really trying to do that in the first match and in the training sessions.
“They’re all getting into the frog hop team cheer and they’re embracing the team concept, which is really important. I think they’ve done a really good job and it is great to watch them gel as a team.”
ABOUT THE ISL: The International Swimming League is a global professional swimming competition now in season 2 with teams in Europe (Italy-based Aqua Centurions, France-based Energy Standard, Hungary-based Iron, and London Roar), North America (Cali Condors, DC Trident, LA Current, NY Breakers and Toronto Titans), and Asia (Tokyo Frog Kings).
Season 2020 is taking place at the Duna Arena in Budapest, Hungary. Over 300 of the world’s best swimmers from over 50 countries are competing for over USD 6 million in prize money during the condensed, five-week event.
MATCH SCHEDULE: There will be 10 preliminary matches in total, with the top eight teams progressing to the semifinals. The top two teams will battle it out in the Grand Final on November 21 and 22. The full match schedule can be found here.
ISL SOCIAL: Keep up with all the latest ISL news by following @iswimleague on Instagram and Twitter and @internationalswimmingleague on Facebook and YouTube. Visit https://isl.global
MEDIA SERVICES: In countries that do not have a rights holder, the matches are being live streamed on the ISL digital platform ISLand, which can be accessed here.
The results, updated start lists and match standings can be accessed here.
Finally, 20 minutes after the end of each match, a virtual mixed zone will be held that can be accessed via this zoom link.
WHERE TO WATCH (BY COUNTRY / REGION): Please see the below links for digital coverage of ISL Season 2020.
Algeria, Chad, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan and Tunisia: BeIn Sports (https://connect.beinsports.com/)
Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Lesotho , Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zaire, Zambia and Zimbabwe: SuperSport (https://www.dstvafrica.com/home)
USA: CBS (https://www.cbssports.com/)
Canada: CBC (https://www.cbc.ca/player/play/1809062979729)
Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Republica Dominicana, Argentina, Colombia, Peru, Chile, Ecuador, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela: Claro Sports
Brazil: TV Globo (https://globoplay.globo.com/)
Cambodia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, East Timor and Singapore: BeIn Sports (https://connect.beinsports.com/)
Japan: TV Asahi (https://www.tv-asahi.co.jp/)
India: Eurosport India (https://www.eurosportplayer.com/)