Skip to content

Phelps’ Beijing rival Milorad Cavic retires

Oct 10, 2012, 12:28 PM EST

404208_ORIG Getty Images

Another swimming rivalry has sunk to the bottom of the pool.

When Michael Phelps retired at the conclusion of the London Olympics, the Michael-Phelps-vs.-Ryan-Lochte discussion came to an abrupt halt. Wednesday morning, another Phelps rival* (see below) hung up his Speedo: Milorad Cavic.

You probably remember Cavic from the Beijing Games, when he appeared to beat Phelps in the 100m butterfly final. It would have ended Phelps’ now legendary eight-for-eight run at those Games, but the timing pads draped over the ends of each lane never lie. Phelps’ last-second half-stroke was enough to get him to the wall first, as he was first to compress the 12mm thick pad the required 2mm with 2.5kg of pressure.

In a fraction of a second the world went from thinking Phelps had lost a race to getting confirmation of yet another victory, the seventh gold.

A similar situation occurred at the 2009 World Championships in Rome, although this time Phelps beat the Serbian by a comfortable (really?) 0.13 seconds.

Now for an explanation of the above asterisk. Cavic is recognized as a rival to Phelps, but they really had only two close races – Beijing and Rome. Cavic was a distant fifth behind Phelps at the 2007 World Championships, while in London he placed fourth – 0.60 of a second slower than Phelps.

Phelps ended his career with 22 Olympic medals (18 gold); Cavic has one. Phelps finished with 33 Worlds medals (26 gold); Cavic earned two (one gold).

Technically it was a rivalry, albeit a brief one. Either way, Phelps and Cavic staged one of the most exciting finishes in Olympic history.

Cavic’s legacy: The guy who nearly slayed a giant.