Kieren Perkins announced 20 February that he and his fiancee Symantha would wed in April. They are expecting their first child in August of this year. Kieren who is back in training but not yet fit will forego the Australian Pan Pacific Trials and prepare for the World Championships in Perth next January. Perkins father Kevin reports that while his son has not put on as much excess weight, in the lay off after his Gold Medal success at Atlanta, he has grown considerably and is now nudging 6ft 4ins(193cm). Kieren was recently named the most popular Australian athlete for 1996, and with that goes the unending demand for engagements on the speakers circuit, charity functions and many other public appearances. Training time has been severely restricted, but the demands are levelling out and Kieren is doing basic endurance training to build a base for his World Long Course Championship preparation.
Daniel Kowalski is reported to be suffering from a recurring shoulder injury but will still swim the Trials 13 to 16 March in Adelaide. Coach Bill Nelson is confident of Daniel giving a good account of himself. The way is open for up and coming distance freestyler Grant Hackett from Denis Cottrell's Miami Club on the Gold Coast to take a spot on the Aussie's team. No doubt that there will be others from Pacific rim countries ready to take the opportunity in Perkins absence.
Head Coach Talbot has given some swimmers the option of choosing between the World SC and Pan Pacific Championships. Coach Beringen in Adelaide is one who will wait for the Trials results before deciding what his two breaststrokers, Phil Rogers and Ryan Mitchell will swim in this busy and long competitive year. In 1997 the Australian calendar looks more like a northern hemisphere team program rather a typical Aussie summer long course and winter short course due to the World SC and World LC Championship dates. Australian swimmers will have their national LC Championships/World LC Trials Meet October 14 to 19, six months later than normal. Maybe this is a rehearsal for Sydney 2000.
Alex Popov took the first strokes in his competitive comeback with a win in the 50m Freestyle at an Institute of Sport Meet in Canberra on Saturday 22 February. The time was a modest 23.24, but enough to touch out Michael Klim who has returned his World Cup campaign and a short altitude training at Thredbo Alpine Training Centre several hours drive from Canberra. The men's high point score of the Meet went to Scott Goodman with a 1:59.47 200m Fly.
Meredith Smith, by taking out the women's top money with a 1:03.56 backstroke, showed that she is close to stepping into the vacancy left by the retirement of Nicole Stevenson the veteran of three Olympic Games and ten consecutive national 100m Backstroke titles. There appear to be no other serious challengers at this time.