Serbian-American swimmer Milorad Cavic today officially signed his papers to notify FINA, the international governing body for swimming, of his retirement. With that, he is pulled out of the drug-testing pool, and ending the career of the 28-year old butterflier.
Cavic retires in parallel to his arch-nemesis Michael Phelps after the London 2012 Summer Olympics, a fitting end to the greatest swimming rivalry of the last 15 years. The two gave us one of the iconic moments in the history of Olympic sport, where a late stroke by Phelps somehow magically found its way to the wall before Cavic’s well-time finished to claim a gold medal in 2008.
The rivalry really heated up after that, as the swimmers rolled on toward Rome and the battle over polyurethane suits heated up. In 2009, Cavic offered to buy Phelps a new suit after growing frustrated at claims that a better quality of suit is the reason that he was even close to Phelps.
But this was just a window of a magnificent and intriguing career. Cavic is a Serbian and American citizen who was born-in and grew up in California and swam collegiately for Mike Bottom at Cal. He is still the 15-16 National Age Group Record holder in the US in the 100 yard fly with a 47.10.
He swam at four different Olympic Games under three different flags. In 2000, at 16, he was DQ’ed in his first Games in the 100 fly while swimming for Yugoslovia. By 2004, it was Serbia & Montenegro, and then finally just an independent Serbia for Beijing and London. He fought through adversity in his career. Facing burnout in 2006 after finishing his final NCAA Championships, he walked away from the sport, but Bottom lured him back to the Race Club, and most recently Club Wolverines. In 2010, a recurring back injury became so bad that he couldn’t stand without excruciating pain, and ended up having surgery.
At his final Olympics, he just missed a medal in his best event, finishing 4th in the 100 fly, but still came back valiantly. He will end his career with one Olympic medal, a World Championship in the 50 fly from 2009, and two European Titles in the 100 fly.
It is now time for the next great swimming rivalry to emerge. Muffat-Schmitt? Adrian-Magnussen? Van der Burgh-Cordes? There’s no obvious ones, but just like Cavic-Phelps, it’s hard to predict where these things come from. It may be another generation before we see a pair whose matchup excites us as much as these two did.