Tasmanian triathlon star Jake Birtwhistle is taking every step to be ready for the heat of Olympic competition.
As Riverside's 26-year-old former junior world champion receives the green and gold apparel he will wear in Tokyo in four months' time, he has been busy preparing for the anticipated conditions.
With temperatures in the mid-30s normal for the Japanese capital in July and August, Birtwhistle has been training in simulated heat and humidity at the Tasmanian Institute of Sport.
"We know the Games are going to be hot so are just trying to adapt the body to be comfortable in those conditions," he said.
"They are still a fair way off but past experience shows that if you do a bit now and a bit more as the Games get closer, it will be a much quicker adaptation."
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In contrast to his normal calendar jet-setting around the world to various races, Birtwhistle, whose Olympic team nomination was confirmed in December, has spent the summer at home and is exploring ways to boost his chances.
Although the TIS does not have access to an environmental training chamber, staff have constructed their own climate-controlled environment at the Silverdome.
"It gets up to about 35 degrees in there which is not crazy hard and you do get those sort of conditions here in summer, but we don't want to push it too much," Birtwhistle added.
"I want to do enough but not overdo it and compromise my training."
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"I think most of my competitors will be doing stuff like this. We all know what the conditions are going to be and this is something we have to introduce."
TIS senior sport scientist John Gregory said having a treadmill and bike trainer in a makeshift heat chamber helped athletes prepare not just for heat but humidity.
"The humidity is worse than the heat because high humidity prevents sweat evaporating and it just sits on you," he said. "We would like to have a dedicated one but at the end of the day we were able to come up with a solution on how to create a hot environment.
"Being able to deal with heat so much better provides a huge edge, especially coming from Tasmania where we're not as heat adjusted. This reduces the impact the heat will have on athletes and leaves them with less of a gap to people coming from a naturally warm environment."
Birtwhistle said he was happy with how his summer training had gone and has a schedule mapped out leading up to the Olympics. He has a training camp in Canberra next week and plans to take part in the World Triathlon Series race in Yokohama on May 15 before heading to Spain to join his coach and training group. He may also defend his title in the Leeds WTS race on June 6.
While mostly training by himself, Birtwhistle joined Tour de France podium finisher Richie Porte on several Scottsdale loop training rides and returned to competition a fortnight ago when he finished third behind Matt Hauser and Brandon Copeland at the Mooloolaba Triathlon.
"It's been strange but really nice to be home for once. That's the big positive to come out of the last 12 months. It's strange to be a pro athlete but not racing, especially as different countries are kicking things off again while we've been pretty strict in Australia and playing it safe.
"Training by myself, I'm relying on my own motivation to push me on and get the most from each session and you never really know exactly how you are going.
"But it was good to do Mooloolaba. I know I'm still a long way off so to be in the mix there against guys aiming for selection gave me the confidence boost that I'm on the right track.
"I've got six weeks of progression still to go and it was only in the last 500 metres that those guys got away from me so I'm really happy to get back in a race after so long and to go so well."
Having narrowly missed selection for Rio, Birtwhistle has long known Tokyo will not be a normal Olympics.
"It's obviously going to be different to what we normally expect and going to be fly in, get your event done and fly out, and that's your Olympic experience. It's a shame but just to get a race in at this point is a big positive so we won't complain. It will still be as big as it gets and I want to pull out all the stops."
Ironically, despite all his globe-trotting, Birtwhistle rates another Olympic experience on Australian shores as probably the hottest conditions he has ever faced.
"I've done plenty of hot races and generally it has not affected me too much.
"When I was a junior, I did the Australian Youth Olympic Festival in Penrith. That day it broke the NSW record and reached 47 degrees although when we raced in the morning it was mid-30s. I've probably only raced those conditions a handful of times though."
And how did he cope?
"Well I won, so OK I think."
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