OMAHA -- Behind the curtain of a random-looking decision was a logical plan.
Michael Phelps pulled out of the final of the 200-meter freestyle Saturday night at the Swimvitational at the Qwest Center after swimming the event in the morning preliminaries.
But that was no last-minute whim. Phelps did so to give himself a better shot in the 100 backstroke and maybe even send a message to Austin, Texas, and rival Aaron Peirsol in his last significant meet before the U.S. Olympic trials.
Done and done.
Phelps won the 100 backstroke in 53.42 seconds, recording the second-fastest time in the world this year. The No. 1 time, 53.10, was recorded by Helge Meeuw of Germany in April, and Peirsol's 53.56 dropped to No. 3.
"The last 50 meters I couldn't feel anything," Phelps said. "My whole legs just pretty much shut down. With the time, I'll take it for now.
"I'm pretty satisfied. One of the biggest things is being able to come to this venue, especially three weeks ahead of trials. Just being able to get used to everything here, getting used to the pool, getting used to the warmup pool. You know what to expect when you come back here in three weeks."
Amanda Beard, who finished third in the 100 breaststroke, in 1:09.27 behind Megan Jendrick and Jillian Tyler, concurred with Phelps' assessment.
"Coming to Omaha now is basically to do test runs, get the lay of the land, find out the restaurants easy to access," she said. "Where is the nearest Starbucks? Figuring out where everything is so when I come here in three weeks I'm not lost and running around."
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For Erik Vendt, the decision-making process for the U.S. Olympic swim trials got more complicated by virtue of an outstanding swim.
Vendt won the 400-meter individual medley in 4 minutes 14.99 seconds on Saturday at the Qwest Center, the sixth-fastest time in the world this year. For the sake of comparison, Michael Phelps went 4:13.47 this year. "That made it a lot harder," Vendt said, adding that his chances were about equal in making the team in the 400 freestyle and 400 individual medley.
His Club Wolverine coach, Bob Bowman, agreed that Saturday changed the equation about what event to add to the program, which includes the 1,500 freestyle. "It makes me think," he said. "It's nice to have choices and possibilities."
Speaking of Michigan . . .
Perhaps the most coveted college position, winter climate and all, is in Ann Arbor, Mich. And the men's job opened recently when Bowman decided to return to the North Baltimore Aquatic Club in Maryland as the club's chief executive, taking Michael Phelps with him.
His replacement? Talk among the coaches and swimmers here centered on Mike Bottom, who has seemed to be a warm-climate guy through and through, working now as coach for the Race Club, based in Islamorada, Fla., and before that, at Cal in Berkeley. Northbound migration has limits, though. Three-time Olympian Gary Hall Jr. laughed and said no when asked whether he would follow Bottom to Michigan.
-- Lisa Dillman