California : Michael Phelps won the 200m backstroke at the Santa Clara Grand Prix as former world record-holder Ryan Lochte skipped the final to focus on the 400m medley.
Phelps, whose eight Olympic gold medals at Beijing did not include the 200m backstroke, on Saturday said he enjoyed tackling a different event.
Phelps, who has endured an erratic season, led the entire way and touched the wall more than 3 seconds ahead of Australian Mitchell Larkin in 1min 57.05sec.
"It`s fun. Just being able to get in the water and do something different every now and then is good," said Phelps, owner of 14 Olympic gold medals overall.
While Phelps has yet to settle on his likely schedule for the 2012 London Olympics, he continues to maintain it will not include the 400m individual medley.
He was more than happy to be a spectator to that demanding event on Saturday.
"I will say, watching the 400 IM, I do not want to be back in the pool for that race," Phelps said with a laugh. "I don`t miss that race."
Brazil`s Thiago Pereira won the medley, with Lochte, who has been hampered by a strained left knee, second.
Pereira won in 4:15.89, and Lochte said he was happy with his runner-up time of 4:17.76.
"After that loss, I think I`m pumped up," Lochte said. "I didn`t try to snap my legs and still had a pretty good time."
Phelps said he was pleased to see Lochte taking up the 400m medley challenge.
"I think it`s good to see him back in the IM," Phelps said. "I think that`s something that we need to try and keep on our side.
"We need to keep that medal. Not only in the world champs, but in the Olympics."
The meeting, which concludes on Sunday, is the last stop in USA Swimming`s Grand Prix series and the US swimmers` last significant competition before next month`s world championships in Shanghai.
A sprinkling of overseas swimmers are also using the meeting as a tune-up.
Park Tae-Hwan of South Korea won the 200 freestyle, adding that title to the 100m and 400m free titles he won on Friday.
Australian Stephanie Rice won the women`s 400m individual medley and compatriot Meagen Nay won the women`s 200m backstroke.