Aussie superstar poached by rebel league
AUSSIE teenage sensation Ariarne Titmus is joining the rebel swimming league that wants to revolutionise the sport in the same way Big Bash transformed cricket.
Titmus has signed on for the San Francisco-based Cali Condors, one of the eight franchises that will compete in the breakaway International Swimming League (ISL), which now includes 20 Australians, with more to come.
The 18-year-old had initially planned to sit out the inaugural season - which will run from early October to late December - but changed her mind after her coach Dean Boxall gave the thumbs up, so will join the global uprising against the sport's governing body FINA.
Riding the crest of a wave after breaking her own Commonwealth record for 400m freestyle at the Australian trials, the 'Terminator' will be joined in the Golden State by her regular training partners Mitch Larkin, Shayna Jack and Jack Cartwright.
Other Australian international swimmers have also been snapped up by rival teams in the $7.5 million series, with more signings to be announced in the next week, headed by Clyde Lewis joining the New York Breakers.
At least 12 Dolphins, including Rio Olympic gold medallists Kyle Chalmers, Cate Campbell, Bronte Campbell and Emma McKeon, will compete for London Roar, alongside British breaststroke world record holder Adam Peaty.
Double Olympic gold medallist Emily Seebohm will team up with Sarah Sjostrom and Chad le Clos at Energy Standard, based in France and Turkey, while rising teenage medley swimmer Kaylee McKeown and Georgia Bohl have been recruited by the Rome-based Aqua Centurions.
By joining the Cali Condors, Titmus will get the added bonus of racing more regularly against Katie Ledecky, the American superstar she is chasing for Olympic gold in Tokyo next year.
Ledecky will represent DC Trident in Washington, alongside Australians Brianna Throssell and Leiston Pickett.
The most notable Australian absentee from the ISL is Mack Horton, the Rio 400m gold medallist.
Despite being in high demand, he's decided to miss the first season to focus all his attention on defending his Olympic title.
Other, including Titmus, were also worried about how the series might impact her Olympic preparations so ISL organisers agreed to shorten the first season to three "matches" per team, plus a two-day final series on the Las Vegas strip and now about 200 of the world's best swimmers and their coaches are taking the plunge.
"This is something that's new in our sport but I think it's fantastic and I expect everyone will take it up and embrace it because I have no doubt it's the future of our sport," Australian head coach Jacco Verhaeren said.
"The only warning and conversations we have is with athletes and coaches is make sure you choose the right amount to of travel, but that's just common sense."
Australia's swimmers have been at the forefront of plans to create the innovative team competition that will showcase the sport around the world after complaining that FINA spends more on hotels, travel and per diem for officials than it gives to the swimmers who generate enormous revenue from broadcast deals.
Not only is the ISL offering unprecedented prizemoney but has also promised to pay swimmers appearance money and cover all their expenses.
AUSTRALIANS WHO HAVE SIGNED FOR ISL
Cali Condors - USA
London Roar - Britain
DC Trident- Washington D.C
Aqua Centurions - Rome
Energy Standard - Turkey/France
INTERNATIONAL SWIMMING LEAGUE SCHEDULE
October 4-5 in Indianapolis
October 12-13 in Naples, Italy
October 18-19 in Lewisville, Texas
October 26-27 in Budapest
November 15-16 in Maryland
November 23-24 in London
December 20-21 (finals) in Las Vegas