IRVINE, Calif. -- The head-to-head rematch between the greatest swimmer of all time and the man many believe is the top swimmer in the world right now will have to wait another year.
Michael Phelps elected not to swim in the 200-meter individual medley Saturday and thus will not face fellow American Ryan Lochte in a rematch of the race Lochte won earlier this month at nationals.
Phelps won gold in the 100 butterfly Friday night and swam the opening leg of the 400 freestyle relay in a meet-record 48.13 seconds. His coach, Bob Bowman, said that simply took too much out of him and he wanted to save his energy for the 400 medley relay tonight.
"After last night, his energy levels were pretty low," Bowman said. "He had three races today if he swam the 200 IM twice and he wanted to make sure the relay was good, so it just made sense to skip the IM."
Phelps must now hope his 200 IM time of 1:55.94 at nationals holds up so he is one of the two Americans to qualify for the event at next summer's world championships.
Lochte, who holds the top U.S. time in the event (1:54.84), was less than pleased when he heard Phelps had pulled out of the event.
"I was kind of upset," he admitted. "I was kind of looking forward to racing against him in the 200 IM. It's kind of surprising, but he has his reasons, so I just have to focus on my race."
Lochte, who himself elected not to race in the medley relay Saturday night, said he doesn't believe Phelps is ducking him. Lochte will instead face off with American Tyler Clary in the 200 IM final after both turned in qualifying times under 1:59.
"I know [Phelps]," Lochte said. "He's not the kind of person who would leave or hide away from anyone. He's a racer. We all are. He just has his reasons why he's not swimming and that's between him and his coach."
Hardy continues to build confidenceThe psychological rebuilding of Jessica Hardy continued here Saturday morning. One night after winning gold in the 50 breaststroke, the American speedster shattered Amy Van Dyken's 15-year-old Pan Pac record during qualifying heats of the 50 freestyle.
Hardy swam her qualifying heat in 24.75, breaking Van Dyken's previous mark of 25.03. U.S. teammate Kara Lynn Joyce, who won the 50 free at nationals, also qualified for the final (25.00).
"I'm just getting more and more confident every time I get in the water," Hardy said. "Instead of telling myself to relax or thinking about trying to relax, I'm almost on autopilot, where I am automatically relaxing before every race. And that's the key to everything, swimming relaxed and with confidence."
Hardy's coach, Dave Salo, had another take on his swimmer's success in the 50-meter distances.
"It's pure speed," he said. "And she's a thoroughbred."
What to watch for tonight ...Two entertaining races to keep an eye on in tonight's Pan Pacific Championships are the men's 50 freestyle and 200 breaststroke.
The 50 free race for the world's fastest man will pit Brazilian Cesar Cielo versus American Nathan Adrian. Cielo, the world-record holder in the event, turned in the fastest qualifying time at 21.64, a Pan Pac record. Cielo's coach criticized his swimmer for coasting earlier in the meet. Saturday, he gets his final chance at redemption; but he'll have to be faster than Adrian, who beat Cielo in the 100 free and was less than two-one hundredths of a second behind him in qualifying.
"The thing is, we all know he has a lot more in the tank," Adrian said of Cielo. "So it's going to be interesting."
The other entertaining swimmer to watch will be Japan's Kosuke Kitajima in the 200 breast. Kitajima was on world-record pace 150 meters through his morning preliminary session, but faded ever so slightly in the end, finishing in 2:09.23. On Saturday night, Kitajima could become one of the first swimmers in the world to set a new world record in a textile suit.