Jason Lezak Talks ISL Opening Month

2019 Oct | By

by SwimOutlet.com Staff

October saw the launch of the new professional International Swimming League (ISL) with a series of inaugural meets across the U.S. and Europe. We caught up with Cali Condors General Manager Jason Lezak, an eight-time Olympic medalist, on the first month of action in ISL and what to look forward in the weeks and seasons ahead.

Q: Tell us your initial impressions of the ISL meets on the two opening weekends of the season in Indy and Naples that you were part of?
JL: The first two ISL meets were a big success! The athletes especially enjoyed the fast-paced format and it kept the fans entertained for two full hours each day. The meets were exciting and the backdrop, including graphics, lights, and music made it feel like a party atmosphere, inviting anyone to come or watch on TV without already being a fan of swimming. I believe the ISL will help draw a larger fan base to our sport and even inspire more kids to choose swimming over others sports as well. 
Q: What was your favorite part of being involved in this new venture? Was it the strategy behind assembling your team, the fan atmosphere, the races themselves?
JL: I have enjoyed all aspects of this new venture, but if I had to pick one it would be the strategy of assembling the team. I put in a lot of work trying to get the best team possible for this new format in swimming. There was a lot of research involved to see how swimmers performed at certain times of the year and how they would be able to race multiple times with short breaks in between. The ISL competitions are much different from what most viewers are used to seeing at a major championship meet once a year, so the strategy for building our roster needed to reflect that.

Q: Are you happy with the format for this year in terms of finding out which team is the best swim team in the world or would you prefer to see more dual meets, head to head and maybe some events in your market of California?
JL: Because swimmers are used to putting all their focus on the Olympics every four years, the ISL decided to keep the meet schedule to a minimum this season. Next year the plan is to increase the number of meets and lengthen the season, which will make it more similar to other professional sport leagues. This will also give teams the opportunity to host “home" meets. This will be great for the Condors when we have a home crowd in Northern California and it will also help us develop a dedicated fan base.

Q: Whose performances stood out most for you?
JL: We had several outstanding performances throughout the first two meets. Since the focus of the competition is the team, sometimes individual performances can be overshadowed. The best team performance was when the women went 1-2 in the medley relay in Indianapolis, which shows our dominance and depth in all strokes. From an individual perspective, Melanie Margalis broke the American record in the 200IM which was spectacular. 

Q: Does the team aspect of ISL compare at all to college swimming or much different?
JL: The team aspect of ISL is very similar to college. On the Condors, a lot of the swimmers already knew each other and the others blended in right away, which helped to give us that TEAM edge over other teams. The athletes are all supportive of each other and want to do well for the team, which helps elevate individual and relay performances. 
Q: What can we expect from the Cali Condors in November and December?
JL: The goal for the Condors in November is to qualify for the Finals in December. We have a great chance, based on our scores from the first two competitions. If we have the same TEAM mentality for the Finals in Las Vegas I believe we can beat any team out there and win the first ISL championship.
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