IRVINE, Calif. -- Michael Phelps dropped out of the 200-meter individual medley heats on Saturday at the Pan Pacific championships, leaving teammate Ryan Lochte as the favorite.
Coach Bob Bowman said Phelps chose to focus on swimming in the evening 400 medley relay final.
Bowman said Phelps told him Friday night that he didn't think he could swim the heats and final of the 200 IM, then come back later to help the United States in the medley relay on the final night of the year's biggest international meet.
"It's going to take three really good swims to get through that and neither one of us feel like he has three in him," Bowman said. "I agreed because I know his physical condition.
"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."
Phelps won the 100 butterfly on Friday night, then returned later to lead off the victorious 400 free relay, in which the Americans beat Australia by 2.56 seconds.
He swam a meet-record 100 split of 48.13 against Canada's Brent Hayden, whose mark of 48.59 Phelps lowered from four years ago.
"That was about all the gas that was left in the tank last night," Bowman said.
Phelps also won the 200 fly on the first night and led off the winning 800 free relay.
Lochte beat Phelps for the first time in a long-course medley at a major meet when he won the 200 IM at the U.S. national championships on Aug. 6. Lochte won in 1 minute, 54.84 seconds, and Phelps was second in 1:55.94. Their times were the two fastest in the world this year.
Bowman said Phelps wasn't trying to avoid taking on Lochte again.
The U.S. team for next year's world championships in Shanghai will be chosen based on fastest times at nationals and Pan Pacs. Bowman said he believes Phelps' time at nationals will prove to be good enough to get him on the team in the 200 IM.
Lochte qualified fastest for the Pan Pac final with a time of 1:58.03. Teammate Tyler Clary was second in 1:58.56.
Lochte has won three individual golds and two golds in the relays.