A touchy subject for Phelps
Suits, lies and videotape.
Reintroducing the battle between Michael Phelps and Milorad Cavic in the men’s 100-meter butterfly: the sequel.
The suits: Cavic, wearing the high-tech bodysuit, the polyurethane Arena X-Glide, at the world championships, offered to buy Phelps one, saying: “If Michael wants an Arena, he just has to say. If he wants a Jaked they don’t want to give it to him for free, I’ll buy it for him.”
Phelps will stick with his “old school” Speedo LZR Racer.
“I’m wearing this,” he said. “If he wants to wear a different suit, he can throw this one on.”
For the record, Phelps was saying this after Cavic took away his world record Friday in the semifinals of the 100 fly, going 50.01 seconds. Phelps (50.48) didn’t offer to buy Cavic a Speedo.
The lies: Cavic, a Serb who went by the first name Mike as he was raised in Orange County, is now living and training in Italy. The move to Europe hasn’t cut into his candor quotient about Phelps and the suits.
“I think in the media, it’s been portrayed he has no options,” Cavic said of Phelps’ suit choices. “He has some. It’s a complete lie. I know he’s making a lot of money from Speedo. But you know what, throughout my career I’ve learned this: Free will is a gift with a price tag and whatever you choose to do, you’re going to pay.”
The videotape: At the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, Cavic was out-touched by Phelps’ final lunge of faith in the 100 fly, losing by one-hundredth of a second. Not only was it the seventh gold medal of Phelps’ eventual eight, it represented the defining moment of the Games.
Cavic, meanwhile, has been making like a conspiracy theorist, like an Oliver Stone breaking down the tape frame by frame. Almost a year later, he is insisting that he really did win the race, blaming the Omega timing pad system, still claiming in Rome that he did, indeed, touch first in China. (Look out for the grassy knoll at the Foro Italico tonight.)
In lowering Phelps’ world record of 50.22, which was set July 9 at nationals in Indianapolis, Cavic went out with his typical explosive start, going 22.83 in the opening 50 meters.
“He was out quick,” Phelps said. “I know tomorrow that if I want to be in that race, that first 50 is going to have to be a lot closer than a second behind.”
Phelps was part of one world-record effort in the 800 freestyle relay, which the U.S. won in 6:58.55. The other members of the relay were Ricky Berens, David Walters and Ryan Lochte.
The leadoff leg featured Phelps against Paul Biedermann of Germany. And Biedermann, as he had in the 200 freestyle final, easily beat Phelps again, 1:42.81 to 1:44.49.
“I actually had it in my mind, ‘If you beat him one time you can beat him again,’ ” said Biedermann, who broke Phelps’ 200 free world record Tuesday. “And it really motivated me.”
Still, Biedermann vs. Phelps was overshadowed by the talk of tonight’s showdown between Cavic and Phelps in the final.
The rivalry between Phelps and Cavic flared against the backdrop of another tumultuous day in Rome, in and out of the pool. FINA, the sport’s international governing body, announced its ban of the controversial bodysuits would take effect Jan. 1.
All the while, world records continued to tumble with numbing regularity. Six more fell, bringing the total to 35 at this meet. Not all world records are created equal, but Aaron Peirsol’s destruction of his own mark was an impressive show of force in the 200 backstroke.
Peirsol, wearing an Arena suit from his waist to the ankles, went 1:51.92, beating silver medalist Ryosuke Irie of Japan by 0.59 seconds. Lochte was third.
“That was not a piece of cake,” said the Orange County-raised Peirsol.
His victory was a popular one by virtue of his personality and his failure to make the finals in the 100 backstroke, a setback that seemed to affect his teammates. He watched the 100 final from the stands and said the view was hard to swallow.
“I may have been more rested than anyone else, though,” said Peirsol, whose previous world record in the 200 (1:53.08) came July 11 at nationals.
“It was kind of a blessing in disguise,” he said of not making the 100 final. “I wanted to race. I saw that I pulled out from the beginning feeling all right. When I kept pulling away, that was even more [motivation] just to go faster.”
Peirsol said he had been fighting the longer distance.
“I’ve been struggling to get faster in that for many years now. Kind of when it rains, it pours, I guess,” he said.
That may have been the best summation of another world-record night in Rome.
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)
World records set Friday at the World Swimming Championships in Rome:
Aaron Peirsol, U.S., 200 backstroke, 1:51.92.
Milorad Cavic, Serbia, 100 butterfly, 50.01.
United States (Michael Phelps, Ricky Berens,
David Walters, Ryan Lochte), 800 freestyle relay, 6:58.55.
Britta Steffen, Germany, 100 freestyle, 52.07.
Magdalena Veldhuis, Netherlands, 50 butterfly; 25.28.
Therese Alshammar, Sweden, 50 butterfly, 25.07.
Men: 13 | Women 22