Gold Coast, Australia: Five-time Olympic gold medallist Ryan Lochte lost out on a final spot to Michael Phelps in the 200 metres individual medley at the Pan Pacific Championships on Sunday.
Teammate Tyler Clary swam a faster time (1min 58.70sec) after being re-seeded out of the final preliminary leaving Phelps and Lochte to fight out for the second and last American place in the final under meet rules.
Eighteen-time Olympic champion Phelps came home strongly to out-touch Lochte by 0.23sec to win their heat in the fourth-fastest time of 1:58.95 behind Japan`s Kosuke Hagino (1:57.61).
That meant Lochte, a silver medallist behind Phelps in the event at the 2012 London Olympics, missed out on the final and will instead swim in the B final at the Gold Coast later Sunday.
As it stands, Lochte still leads as the top US entry in the event for next year`s world championships under his country`s selection policy following his winning time of 1:56.50 at the US trials this month.
Phelps and Clary would have to better that time in Sunday`s final to take both spots on the world team roster.
"I thought we were going a lot faster than what we did, but I`m going to get a second swim, I`ll be in a B final," a puffing Lochte said.
"This morning was a little rough. The whole race didn`t feel good. I mean things happen. I just have to get faster for tonight, so we`ll see."
Phelps said Clary`s re-seeding created some uncertainty during his heat swim with Lochte.
"This morning was kind of wild. It`s supposed to be Ryan (Lochte), myself and Tyler Clary in the heat and they had a re-seed, so it was frustrating not being able to gauge how fast we were going," Phelps said.
"I just wanted to get my hand on the wall first. I thought we would be both faster than 1:58.7 that Tyler went but I`m happy to win that heat.
"The final should be good. Those guys were out a lot faster than we were this morning and it will be a good fight in the middle of the pool."
Americans Maya Dirado and Caitlin Leverenz were the fastest in the women`s heats of the 200m medley.
Australia`s Cate Campbell will look to complete the sprint double after again going quicker than her sister Bronte in the 50m freestyle heats.
Cate, who won the 100m freestyle gold on Friday, clocked a meet record 24.35sec and Bronte went 24.67.
Americans Anthony Ervin (21.75) and Nathan Adrian (21.76) hold the whip hand in the men`s 50m freestyle final, while teammates Nicolas Fink (2:09.64) and Kevin Cordes (2:10.01) were the quickest in the men`s 200m breaststroke.
Japanese pair Rie Kaneto (2:23.18) and Kanako Watanabe (2:23.44) topped the charts in the women`s 200m backstroke prelims.