Feb 6 (Reuters) - Singapore's Olympic butterfly champion Joseph Schooling is reuniting with former coach and mentor Sergio Lopez in the United States as he seeks to regain his lost form in time for Tokyo.
The 24-year-old failed to qualify for the 100m semi-finals at the world championships in Gwangju, South Korea, last July finishing equal 24th and with a best time 2.54 seconds slower than his 2016 Olympic record.
He told Singapore's Straits Times newspaper in an interview on Thursday that he spent time with the Spaniard after the Southeast Asian Games last December and had "started thinking a little differently."
"I just like what Sergio does on a personal level, but also in the pool, and he inspires me to be the best version that I can be, on a day-to-day basis," he said.
"We're focusing more on mid-distance stuff. The yardage might be a little more than the past eight to nine months. And that's where I need to be right now.
"I need to be fit enough to swim the 200m fly if I want to do the 100m fly the way I want to," added the Singaporean, who spent five years at university in Austin, Texas, before returning home last year.
Schooling, who beat American great Michael Phelps in the 100 metres butterfly final in Rio to become Singapore's first Olympic gold medallist, said he will link up with Lopez at Virginia Tech from Sunday.
He will train with a group of 15 Olympic hopeful swimmers from Hungary, Poland and Hong Kong and work with Lopez until the Games, which start in July.
American Caeleb Dressel looks to be the hot favourite for the 100m butterfly in Tokyo, having set a world record time of 49.50 seconds last year in Gwangju.
"It's going to take at least 49-mid to 49-low to win (in Tokyo)," said Schooling. "It is going to take a lot quicker than what I swam in Rio to win." (Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Toby Davis)