With a defiant performance in a supposedly inferior suit, Phelps stayed close over the outward lap and rallied on the return to become the first swimmer to break 50 seconds in the 100-meter butterfly, beating the Serbian with a time of 49.82.
Cavic also broke 50 seconds, but 49.95 was only good enough for silver. He wasn’t nearly as close as last year’s Beijing Olympics, when Phelps famously won by one-hundredth of a second and Cavic always maintained that he actually touched first.
When Phelps saw his time at the Foro Italico, he hopped up on the lane rope separating him and Cavic, threw up his arms and let out a scream toward his mom and sister in the stands.
Showing as much emotion as he ever has, Phelps also slapped the water and tugged at his Speedo LZR Racer swimsuit – no doubt in reference to Cavic offering to get Phelps one of those supposedly faster polyurethane suits so he wouldn’t have any excuses.
No need, Milorad.
Phelps did just fine with his own attire.
“It doesn’t matter what suit you wear,” Phelps said. “It matters how you train.”
The two rivals finally shook hands, but that was about it.
Nothing more needed to be said.
“This is just a testament to Michael Phelps,” Cavic said. “He can do it all.”
Cavic did say one thing to Phelps: “You’re the man.”
“He just looked at me and smiled,” Cavic said. “He knows it.”
In one of the most memorable events of the Beijing Olympics, Phelps pulled out an improbable victory on his final half-stroke to beat Cavic by the narrowest possible margin. Without that win, Phelps would not have broken Mark Spitz’s record with eight gold medals in a single games.