Irvine, California :Michael Phelps withdrew from the 200m individual medley at the Pan Pacific Championships, coach Bob Bowman saying the swimmer would focus on the closing relay of the meet.
Bowman, speaking as the heats started on the fourth and final day of competition in the pool, said Phelps told him on Friday night that he didn't believe he could swim preliminaries and the final of the 200m medley and have enough left to help the United States in the 4x100m medley relay.
"I agreed, because I know his physical condition," said Bowman, who prepared Phelps for his eight-gold assault at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
Phelps has acknowledged all season that he isn't in peak shape after a lengthy training break.
He won the 200m and 100m butterfly here and led off victorious US efforts in the 4x200m freestyle and 4x100m freestyle relays.
Phelps's lead-off leg in the 4x100m freestyle relay on Friday night set a Pan Pacs record for the 100m freestyle of 48.13sec. Canadian Brent Hayden had set the previous record of 48.59 in 2006.
"That was about all the gas that was left in the tank last night," Bowman said.
Making things more difficult is the Pan Pacs rule that only two swimmers from each country can compete in each final. That puts pressure on to produce a fast time in the heats.
Phelps was squeezed out of the 400m medley final when teammates Ryan Lochte and Tyler Clary swam faster in the preliminaries and went on to finish one-two.
Lochte and Clary also topped the 200m medley qualifying times. Lochte clocked 1:58.03 and Clary 1:58.56 with Japan's Ken Takakuwa third-fastest in 1:58.72.
Bowman said Phelps' only regret in pulling out of the event was knowing that fans would be disappointed.
"I think he feels like he's letting the fans down a little bit, but he doesn't want to let his teammates down in the relay," Bowman said.
There was still plenty of star power on offer Saturday.
Japan's Kosuke Kitajima, who Olympic breaststroke doubles in both Athens and Beijing, topped the qualifying times in the 200m breast with a time of 2:09.23, with American Eric Santeau second-quickest and Japan's Naoya Tomita third-fastest.
World record-holder Christian Sprenger of Australia failed to make the final.
World record-holder Cesar Cielo of Brazil set the pace in 50m freestyle qualifying ahead of American Nathan Adrian and Canadian Brent Hayden.
Cielo won the 50m butterfly on Wednesday, but settled for third in the 100m free behind Adrian and Hayden.
Australian Eamon Sullivan and South African Roland Schoeman both missed out on finals berths.