By her own admission, Tao Li acknowledges that completing an Asian Games hat-trick of gold medals in the 50m butterfly in September is a tough ask.
The 24-year-old Singaporean, who struck gold in the event at the 2006 and 2010 Games, had booked her ticket to Incheon, South Korea, after clocking 26.70sec and 59.47 in the 50m and 100m fly respectively at the Singapore National Age-Group Swimming Championships at the Singapore Sports School this week.
Her effort in the 50m ranks her second in Asia this year, behind China's Olympic 100m fly silver medallist Lu Ying (26.59), while Japan's Miki Uchida is third with 27.31.
To boost her chances of winning a third consecutive Asian Games gold in the 50m, Tao will fly to the United States next month to train with Joseph Schooling and his coach Sergio Lopez in Florida for four months.
The stocky swimmer had been training in Hubei and Kunming in China since last December, but returned to Singapore to compete in the National Age-Group Swimming Championships, which serves as a qualifier for the Incheon Asian Games.
Yesterday morning, she flew back to Hubei for training.
"I've trained in Australia and China in the past, but I've never done so in the US.
"This is probably my last chance to train in the US, and I want to experience their training and competition environment there," the 2008 and 2012 Olympian told The New Paper.
Tao had intended to train at altitude in Kunming for six weeks, but had to cut short that plan by two weeks to compete in the Asiad qualifiers here.
She touched down last Sunday and didn't taper her training for the ongoing meet, she explained.
The Singapore Sports School alumnus said: "I am happy with the training in China... I feel that I have neglected my endurance training in recent years, as I've focused more on power, and the trip helped to build on that as a foundation before I do more work in the US.
"But I wasn't too happy with my timings at this meet because I expected a sub-59 second timing in the 100 fly."
Her coach Ian Turner, who is Singapore Swimming Association's technical director and national coach, is pleased that Tao has a more structured approach to her preparations for the Asian Games this year.
"She's done all right for this meet since she did very little sprinting and speed work in her altitude training," said the Briton.
Tao said that she will use the Commonwealth Games in Scotland in July to gauge her preparations for the Asian Games.
"It will be difficult to win the gold in the 50m fly again, but I think I have a fighting chance at it," she said.
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