Australia: Leiston Pickett, who returned to training after hip surgery this season, will race for the first time post-op at the Victorian state titles next week before taking on China and others at the Super Series later in the month. Her bigger moment, however, will unfold at the West Australian state titles at the end of the month, Pickett's aim to step out of the shadow of retired Leisel Jones, one of the most successful breaststroker specialists in swimming history and the dominant force in Australia for the past decade. In the midst of summer training with coach Glenn Baker at Southport on the Gold Coast, Pickett, 20, tells News Ltd: "I'm really excited to get back in and race. I haven't raced since the Olympics so I'm going to be a bit nervous getting up there on the blocks not being completely fit and still having a lot of work to do. I can't wait. I've been wanting it for so long, it's what I've trained for. I'm pretty excited to get a really good block of training in, post some fast times before trials and get up there and try and prove and show to Australia that I am the best in the country." Pickett beat Jones at Australian Olympic trials over 100m last year but has yet to rise to the status of the former world record holder and Olympic champion of 2008. "I still feel as though I haven't beaten her quite yet, even though I know I did last year. But I've got to beat her best time to say I've really beaten the best."
FINA Awards: the National Member Federations of the international federation, media representative and aquatic pundits have voted for FINA’s Athletes of 2012: Swimming - Men: Michael Phelps (USA), Women: Missy Franklin (USA); Diving - Men: Ilya Zakharov (RUS), Women: Wu Minxia (CHN); Water polo: Men: Josip Pavic (CRO), Women: Maggie Steffens (USA); Synchro: Natalia Ishchenko (RUS); Open water: Men: Oussama Mellouli (TUN); Women: Eva Risztov (HUN). Franklin, meanwhile, will feature in a film called "The Current", to be filmed in the Bahamas this March and all in aid of the Make A Hero campaign, a charity that helps the disabled through involvement in sports and leisure. Franklin's role, beyond serving as an ambassador for the charity, will be to dive with wild dolphins.
USA: Michael Phelps, who this past week ended a relationship with the girlfriend who accompanied him to functions in London last summer immediately after his career-ending 18th Olympic gold medal for 22 in all, tells the media: "For years, I lived for swimming, training five hours a day and I didn't think of anything else. Now I'm free and I want a family and children." The next goal is clear: the search is on for the love of his life.
Japan: quadruple Olympic champion Kosuke Kitajima did not manage to go where Mr Phelps went in the pool when both sought membership of the Olympic triple crown club alongside Dawn Fraser and Krisztina Egerszegi at London 2012, but he's beaten the American when it comes to going down on one knee: the breaststroke ace proposed to Japanese pop singer Chisa, his girlfriend for the past two years, this week. The lead singer of Girl Next Door, Chisa posted the good news on the band's website. No news yet as to whether Kitajima will retire from the race pool or race on.
Australia: Australian sprinter Eamon Sullivan is to take time out of racing and spend the next year getting back into shape and slowly building the blocks he feels he needs to put in place if he is to make it to Rio 2016. “My thought process is I want to go to another Olympics," Sullivan told ABC. "But four years is a long time the way my body has been. I want to take a year off competition, just stay in Perth and get some solid training behind me and make a decision when I’m 100 percent fit, whether I’m mentally ready to go another four years."