Countdown To The Comback: Top 10 Michael Phelps Feats – #8

We’re counting down the top 10 moments of Michael Phelps’ career, so far. You, our readers, can participate, by voting for number one! Either Tweet or Comment on our Facebook with #phelpstop10lezaked if your number one is the improbable 400 free relay come-from-behind victory in Beijing is your top Phelps moment. Tweet or Facebook #phelpstop10cavic if your favorite is the almost unseeable 100 fly win over Milorad Cavic in Beijing, or Tweet/Comment #phelpstop108golds if your pick is the 400 medley relay, which ran Phelps into the history books.


To really look at the significance of this race, we need to take in the Phelps-Cavic rivalry that started back in 2008; Phelps and Cavic are so intertwined in swimming history that it’s hard to mention the top 10 Phelpsian Pheats without his rivalry with Serbia’s Milord Cavic. In 2008, as we all remember, Cavic said some choice comments to the media about how great it would be if Phelps lost the 100m fly final. We all know how that went over; Phelps came back from behind to just out-touch Cavic by one one-hundredth of a second and match Mark Spitz’ seven gold medals in one Olympic games and win what could be considered one of the most heart-stopping races this sport has ever seen.

Phelps took some time off from the sport after the Beijing Olympics, but was still clearly king after establishing himself as the most decorated/winningest Olympian of all time. Come 2009, the outbreak of high-tech polyurethane suits swept the sport, adding to a absolute mauling of the record books. Suits like the Arena X-Glide and the Jaked-01 aided swimmers with buoyancy and other aspects of their race to truly change how fast a swimmer could move through the water.

Many, such as Phelps, questioned the integrity of these suits in the sport and chose not to wear them. At the US World Championships trials Phelps broke the longstanding  world record set by his former teammate and rival Ian Crocker of 50.40 in the 100m fly, a mark that he’d been eyeing for some time. Phelps swam a 50.22 and headed to the 2009 Worlds with the same schedule as Beijing minus the two IM’s.

At the Worlds, Cavic spoke out again about beating Phelps and Phelps’ decision to not wear the new high-tech race suits. In the semifinals of the 100m fly Cavic broke Phelps’ world record with a time of 50.01, just two one-hundredths shy from being the first man under the 50-second barrier. In the finals, it was a clear rematch of Beijing and Cavic was out fast. Phelps once again had to track him down to the wall, and in a last effort passed him to be the first man to break the 50-second barrier in the 100m fly. Phelps touched in at 49.82, Cavic in 49.95 to set a European record.

Following his victory, Phelps got on top of the lane rope, pounded his chest and showed off his Speedo LZR Racer showing the world that he didn’t need a high-tech swim suit to come out on top. That race was the last real showdown between the two swimmers, considering an injury for Cavic that prevented him from even qualifying for the semi-finals in the event in 2011. Cavic wasn’t as big a factor at the 2012 Olympics either, finishing fourth.

Undoubtedly with Phelps; amazing time, amazing race, and his ability to win the race without a high-tech suit, it makes it a clear 2-0 for Phelps in his rivalry against Cavic. The rivalry will go down in history as one of the greatest the sport has seen, and the race in 2009 one of the finest performances of perseverance.



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He wasn’t wearing a super suit?! I never knew that… So how come he never not got back to that mark?


*never got back, sorry


He was still wearing a full-body LZR Racer, whereas he was only wearing a knee-length one from 2010 on following the ban.


The LZR was still not textile, just wasn’t as super as other suits. There’s also the matter of his age.


Ah, I see, thanks guys!


He beats the suits….while wearing one of the top super suits and the most debated suit ever. Right


I see your point here, but comparing the LZR to the X-Glide is almost like comparing an aquablade to a LZR.


True. although LZR was also a rubber supersuit, there were still noticeable documented differences in performance between LZR, Arena X-Glide, Jaked, or Adidas Hydrofoil. One of the best example is Libby Trickett whose 100 free swim prowess was consistent: in 2006 in Speedo Fastskin FS II (textile), she swam PB of 53.42 in 2007 in Speedo Fastskin FS Pro (textile, but most people claimed this new technology helped much more than any other previous swimsuit technology), she swam PB of 52.99 in 2008 in Speedo LZR (50% Polyurethane), she swam PB of 52.88 in 2009 Rome, she swam in LZR in the individual 100 free: 52.93 but a few days later she, after pressured to win AUS medal, she changed… Read more »


Did you ever wear a LZR? There was no rubber in it except for what covered the zipper inside the suit. It was nothing like the Jaked or B70.


By rubber, I meant polyurethane. And Speedo LZR contained polyurethane plates that covered around 50% of total surface.


I would rank this swim much higher given the stakes and the controversy surrounding the matchup. It’s my #2 after his ’08, particularly because its probably the only time ever Phelps has focused an entire year around one event– to majestic results.

About Mitch Bowmile

Mitch Bowmile

Mitch Bowmile is a former Canadian age group swimmer who was forced to end his career early due to a labrum tear in his hip and a torn rotator cuff after being recognized as one of the top 50 breaststrokers his age in Canada. He competed successfully at both age …

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