SINGAPORE - The 200m butterfly was the ticket to his first Olympic Games, in London in 2012. Six years on, Joseph Schooling is mulling over dropping the event at the elite level, as he trains towards Tokyo 2020.
"That is up in the air; I've raced the 200m fly for a very long time and I think I might be done with that race," said the 23-year-old after winning the 100m fly on Thursday (June 21) at the Neo Garden 14th Singapore National Swimming Championships.
He clocked 52.43sec to beat Australians Matthew Temple (52.59) and Bowen Gough (53.20).
Schooling said: "I am comfortable focusing on the shorter races. Sometimes you just have to transition, that is how the career goes. Michael (Phelps) stopped the 400m IM (individual medley) when he got older, and sometimes it's just what you need to do."
He won a bronze in the 200m fly at the 2014 Incheon Asian Games and owns the national record (1min 55.73sec) set en route to gold at the 2015 Singapore SEA Games.
His decision to scratch the 200m fly is not surprising, though. He was scheduled to compete in the event at both the 2016 Rio Olympics and last year's World Championships but eventually skipped it.
Dropping the 200m fly does not mean he will have a lighter load though at this year's Asiad in Indonesia.
The 100m fly Olympic champion is pencilled in for five events - the 50m and 100m fly, the 100m free and the 4x100m free and 4x100m medley relays - at the Aug 18-Sept 2 edition. He hinted he may include the 200m free in his repertoire.
"I posted a time this morning, so ideally it would be six (events for the Asian Games)... six is also the maximum I would do," said Schooling, who topped the men's 200m free heats at the OCBC Aquatic Centre in 1:50.74 but withdrew from Thursday's final.
One slot for the Asiad remains open with compatriot Danny Yeo locked down for the other.
Thursday was the first time Schooling competed in a locally organised meet since 2012, and his first local race since the 2015 SEA Games. The meet was also his first as a pro, and after his final National Collegiate Athletic Association outing in March.
Of his 100m fly race, he said: "I'd like to be a bit faster, but we are in hard training now and it's my first long-course meet since the Worlds last year... I kind of dusted the cobwebs off (today).
"Physically, I am getting stronger; I've started getting my flexibility back - that's something I lost in the past two years, lifting a lot of weights - and I've also lost some shoulder mobility.
"Although I don't feel my explosiveness yet, I feel like my aerobic levels are great, I am not dragging around or dying (in the pool). I just got to keep working on it, get enough rest before the Asian Games and the speed will come."