Netherlands: double Olympic sprint champion Ranomi Kromowidjojo heads a Dutch squad heading for the British Gas Open in Leeds from March 7-10. It will be her first major international appearance since the highs of London 2012. Fresh from a three-week camp in Thailand with the national team, Kromowidjojo will use the British meet as a warm-up for the critical Swim Cup in Eindhoven a month later. For the Dutch, the Cup will be the only qualifying event for the Barcelona 2013 world championships, to be staged in the Catalan capital in July and August.
In Leeds, where the Open replaces the British nationals and traditional world-titles trials slot after a London 2012 review urged qualification to be held much closer to the big event, Kromowidjojo is set to meet Britain's Francesca Halsall, though the psyche sheet will be neither complete nor confirmed until entries close next week. All national teamsters in Britain are obliged, health allowing, to race at the Open, another shift in policy that calls on top swimmers to race more often against stiffer international competition. The Dutch entry is one of two big international teams bound for the meet in Leeds, a German contingent also expected.
The 2012 Swim Cup in Eindhoven elbowed its way into the world rankings on the way to a fine result for the Netherlands at London 2012, Kromowidjojo at the helm of that with gold over 50m and 100m freestyle and silver as a member of the 4x100m free squad that finished just behind victorious Australia.
Entries are open to the world, the event set for April 4 to 7 this year. Eindhoven, home of the Pieter Van Den Hoogenband Pool, has become a champion os event hosting over the past several seasons. It will stage the European Masters later this year.
USA: Olympic champions Ryan Lochte, Dana Vollmer, Missy Franklin, Anthony Ervin (2000) Tyler Clary will race at the Orlando Grand Prix on February 14-16, the meet the third stop of the six-meet series. Held for the first time in Orlando at the YMCA Aquatic Center, the events will also feature Conor Dwyer, Amanda Weir, Charlie Houchin, Kate Ziegler and Christine Magnuson, from the US, plus, Canada's Ryan Cochrane, China’s Wu Peng, Jamaica’s Alia Atkinson and Brazil’s Felipe Lima.
Sweden: World 50m free champion Therese Alshammar, of Stockholm, is expecting her first child, with partner and coach Johan Wallberg. The 35-year-old, who in Shanghai in summer 2011 became the oldest female world swim champion in history, and Wallberg are on schedule for a June toast. "I've got a new challenge and a different perspective on life," Alshammar told the Swedish media. Don't expect retirement papers to be filed just yet: she intends to swim on, her story a model of longevity.
Britain: the swim community is among those mourning Manchester club swimmer Chloe Waddell, a 16-year-old among the top 10 of her age in Britain over 400m and 800m freestyle. She went into cardiac arrest on Sunday morning and despite efforts from an ambulance crew to save her she was pronounced dead in hospital. Her mother, Fiona Waddell, told the Manchester Evening News that Chloe had been marked out as a "gifted swimmer who competed for her country", adding: "She was also bright academically. Everything she did she gave 100%. We are very proud of her." Police said the cause of death was not yet known but there are not believed to be any suspicious circumstances. The case has been passed to the coroner.
Japan: the most successful breaststroke swimmers in history, Kosuke Kitajima, missed the podium at London 2012 after double gold at both the 2004 and 2008 Olympic Games over 100 and 200m - but he is to race on regardless. The Japan Times quotes the ace of aces as saying: "I want to enjoy swimming this year. I want to keep swimming until I've had absolutely enough." Back home with mentor and head Japan coach Norimasa Hirai, Kitajima added: "I always felt that I wanted to train with coach Hirai again before I called it a career. I want to enjoy each and every workout I have with him. From here on, I have to approach each and every season like it's my last. I hope I can have a really fulfilling year."
USA: Rick Curl, the coach banned by USA Swimming, will plead guilty to charges of child sex abuse at a hearing on February 21, according to the Washington Post. The paper reported four years of alleged sexual abuse by Curl with former swimmer Kelly Currin last year. The 63-year-old former head of Curl-Burke Swim Club faces a prison term.