SINGAPORE - Joseph Schooling may be on home ground when he stands on the blocks at the OCBC Aquatic Centre on Friday (Aug 16), but he will be in rather unfamiliar territory.
He will compete in only the 200m individual medley during the Aug 15-17 Singapore leg of the Fina Swimming World Cup, an event he has not raced in since the 2015 SEA Games.
For the 24-year-old Singaporean, the race is a "litmus test" of where he stands physically.
"I have a time in mind that I want to go at this meet, and the way I want to feel throughout the race... at the end of the day I think the most important thing is (that) I need to get my volume up in practice, I need to start doing longer and more sustained, intense sets," said Schooling on Wednesday (Aug 14).
The Olympic 100m butterfly champion believes incorporating more middle-distance training into his programme - which entails swimming more laps and covering a longer distance in the pool - will help in regaining his form following his disastrous outing at last month's World Championships.
In Gwangju, South Korea, not only did he fail to retain his 100m fly bronze, which he had won in the previous two editions, he did not even make the final, clocking 52.93 seconds to place 24th in the heats.
"The IM trains a lot of different things, like fitness and different strokes, and it taps on different muscle systems and energy systems," said Schooling, who set the 200m IM national record of 1:59.99 in 2013, as he explained his choice of the IM for this meet.
"Eddie (Reese, his former coach at the University of Texas, Austin) told me (in 2016) that I need to stay in a middle distance to do well, but middle distance hurts a lot more than a sprint. And so I just wasn't ready for it until this year to keep pushing that middle distance like I had been.
"That's what won me the gold in Rio, and that's why I need to go back to it."
National Training Centre head coach Gary Tan estimates that about 80 per cent of Schooling's training is now focused on training for middle-distance (200m-400m) events, up from about 40 per cent leading up to the World Championships.
This will benefit Schooling in the 100m fly by giving him more speed in the second 50m so that he can finish stronger, explained Tan.
He told The Straits Times: "We felt there was a need to change it a bit and do a bit more conditioning on the legs, so that's where the middle-distance stuff comes in - we can focus on mileage and the intensity of his kicking sets, but we want to build on it progressively and get him into the best shape possible.
"If you condition your legs and your lungs, there's a lot of good that will come out of it."
Fina Swimming World Cup Singapore tickets are available at www.sportshub.com.sg/FINA-SWC-2019