Abbie Wood and Ben Proud were among the standout British perfomers as the new International Swimming League season dived into action in Naples, Italy over the past few days.
Less than a month after a historic Olympic Games for British Swimming came to a close, no fewer than 34 GB athletes have registered to play a part for one of the 10 ISL teams across the coming months in the global short-course competition. The 10 group matches, as well as the play-off contest, are taking place at the Piscina Felice Scandone between 26th August and 30th September, before the Pieter van den Hoogenband Stadium in Eindhoven, Netherlands hosts November's semi-finals. The final is scheduled for January 2022.
ISL 2020 proved a breakthrough set of meets for Loughborough National Centre athlete Wood, who trains under coach David Hemmings. She was one of the New York Breakers' biggest point earners across the competition - and she started in the same manner in the Breakers' opening match of 2021, across Saturday and Sunday.
The Tokyo 2020 Olympian claimed a pair of victories across the Women's 200m and 400m Individual Medleys on day one and two respectively. The first saw her earn jackpot points off three rivals (for finishing more than a previously allotted time ahead of them) to claim 15 points overall, while the 400m victory saw her pick up a greater tally of 21.
There were also third-placed finishes for her in the frantic 100m Individual Medley and the 200m Breaststroke.
Wood's New York teammate Joe Litchfield, another versatile athlete of the Hemmings cohort, finished second in the Men's 200m Individual Medley for his best result of the weekend. He was also fourth in the 100m event, while he and Jacob Whittle bookended a fine relay effort in the Men's 4x100m Medley Relay, as their Breakers' quartet placed third. Whittle was also the second leg in the Men's 4x100m Freestyle Relay a day earlier, his New York four coming second on that occasion.
Elsewhere in match two, Keanna MacInnes - who trains at the University of Stirling - caught the eye on her ISL debut for the Tokyo Frog Kings, touching third in the Women's 200m Butterfly, while Winchester's Imogen Clark was third in the Women's 50m Breaststroke and then helped her LA Current quartet to third in the Women's 4x100m Medley Relay. That race saw Molly Renshaw and Lucy Hope (University of Edinburgh) play their part in a fourth-placed finish for a New York Breakers team.
Earlier in the week, former world champion and two-time Olympian Proud helped Energy Standard to a solid start in their bid to regain the ISL title they won in 2019, before Cali Condors' victory a year later.
Proud was the first British winner of the 2021 campaign as he stormed to victory in the Men's 50m Freestyle. Later that day, he took on the anchor leg for Standard's leading Men's 4x100m Freestyle Relay quartet, bringing them home second.
Anna Hopkin - anewly-crowned Olympic champion as part of the history-making Mixed 4x100m Medley Relay team in Tokyo - showed her form continues, placing third in the Women's 100m Freestyle on day two, after leading off her team on their way to fourth in the Women's 4x100m Freestyle Relay the previous day.
Georgia Davies opened things up in the Women's 4x100m Medley Relay as her Energy Standard team finished third - and she was fourth in the individual 100m Backstroke event.
Isabella Hindley was part of a DC Trident team to finish third in the Mixed 4x100m Medley Relay, while Max Litchfield, fresh from his second Olympic Games, came fourth in the Men's 400m Individual Medley for Energy Standard.
Energy Standard were pushed all the way in match one by Toronto Titans. Energy won the match on 511.5 points, just ahead of the Titans' 496.5-point haul. Aqua Centurions were third on 442.5, while DC Trident ended on 311.5.
Match two was won by the dominant Cali Condors on 707. LA Current were second on 402.5, the Tokyo Frog Kings third on 371.5 and New York Breakers rounded things up on 265.
The London Roar - who boast the second-largest British contingent, behind the Breakers - get their campaign underway on Thursday.