With the path smoothed towards professionalism by his university graduation, the swimmer born in Union, Santiago Grassi, studies the offers of several North American franchises. He would be the first Argentine to participate in an event that summons the stars of world swimming.

He would be the first to compete in the Santiago Grassi International League, one step away from making history in the Argentine swimming. With the path smoothed towards professionalism by his university graduation, the swimmer born in Union, Santiago Grassi, studies the offers of several North American franchises. . He would be the first Argentine to participate in an event that summons the stars of world swimming. With the path smoothed towards professionalism by his university graduation, the swimmer born in Union, Santiago Grassi, studies the offers of several North American franchises. He would be the first Argentine to participate in an event that summons the stars of world swimming.

Santiago Grassi is going through his last days as a student of marketing and information management of systems at the University of Auburn, United States. At 23 years old and after four seasons, the santafesino finishes his studies with the highest qualifications and retires as captain of “los tigres”, the name given to the university swimming team to which he belongs.

The Argentine representative at the last Rio 2016 Olympic Games is aware that he reaches a key moment in his life where the word “professional” begins to be familiar to him, not only because of his imminent graduation but also because of the possibility of joining the International League. Swimming (ISL in English), an event in which the best swimmers in the world participate and that will allow you to earn money to support your sports career and residency in the United States.

That the athletes raise their voices before their federations due to the way in which they are financially recognized is not new and this is exactly what happened in swimming a couple of years ago: led by the Hungarian Katinka Hosszu, perhaps the highest expression of This sport in the female gender today, a small and influential group of swimmers rebelled against the International Federation (FINA) and seduced the Russian businessman Konstantin Grigorishin to invest the necessary money and create the World League.

The move had its moments of tension because FINA threatened to suspend those who participate in the league – the start was scheduled for December 2018 – and the swimmers responded with a judicial presentation arguing anti-monopoly practices by the Federation.
The conflict of interest was resolved, as expected, with the application of the “win-win” formula typical of the business world, with FINA recognizing the ISL even at the cost of not intervening in the audit of the event but at the same time announcing a similar circuit under its orbit: the “Champions Swim Series” (CSS), something like an aquatic “Diamond League”.

The swimmers achieved twice what they imagined in qualitative and quantitative terms: on the one hand the realization of the ISL financed by private capital and of the CSS with federal funds, and on the other the possibility that the money will reach a greater number of swimmers including those who, even without being Olympic or world medalists, have reached an excellent level, as is the case of Santiago.

Professional sport could be conceived or explained in two ways: by the level of dedication and by the money earned.

Due to his status as a fellow within the North American university system – which strictly prohibits him from carrying out any activity that may generate income – Santiago always belonged to the first group, but from his graduation he has the smoothed path to sit down and talk with the franchises that They showed interest in hiring him.

Undoubtedly, the fact of residing in the United States and having the results he had gave him the visibility he needed to get to this moment: the coaches who have come into contact with him already know him, know of his aptitude and especially of his attitude , reflected in the evolution that he had in university swimming in the United States where after four seasons he became one of the most outstanding swimmers in the Southeast American conference.

Los Angeles Current, New York Breakers and DC Tridents are the three franchises that claim it in their teams. These days the Santa Fe is deciding his future and is clear about how he intends to face the best years of his sports career: participating in the ISL to continue evolving and showing himself that what he once dreamed of – which is to belong to the elite of world swimming- is possible.

Everything indicates that whoever represented the Unión de Santa Fe club for many years will end up stamping his signature on a contract that will link him to one of the American franchises and thus become the first Argentine swimmer to participate in the world league.

The first edition of the ISL was held between October and December last year with the participation of 8 teams – 4 Europeans and 4 Americans – with 32 swimmers each; six stages were contested in the championship phase: the first four were crossings between two European and two American teams, while the last two were tournaments between squads of the same franchise.

The championship program included the 50 to 400 meter events of the four styles, the 200 and 400 meters combined and the free and combined relays.

The final, which was accessed by the sum of the four best teams, was held in December at the Mandalay Bay hotel in Las Vegas, United States, where the French team Energy Standard was crowned champion.

The championship had a budget of 20 million dollars, of which 6 million went to the pockets of swimmers for participation and prizes.

With such a sporting and monetary reality, there will be no swimmer who does not have the aspiration to compete in this league, the most important annual tournament in the aquatic world, which came with the purpose of making the sport more popular, achieving greater audiences, generating resources for the benefit of protagonists and, of course, shake the structures of a century-old institution like FINA.

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