Gary Hall Jr.: Cavic will upset Phelps
"My name is Milorad."
"Dude, you’re from Anaheim. I'm calling you Mike."
This exchange is typical Mike Cavic and Aaron Peirsol. They are two Southern California swimmers. One has a lot of pride in his heritage, and the other says the word "dude" quite a bit.
Milorad "Mike" Cavic was born in Anaheim to Serbian parents. He spoke Serbian as a first language, but speaks English better, at least as well as any other citizen of the United States with an accent.
It was in Berkeley one summer when I first met Mike. My first impression of Mike wasn’t a positive one. “What a jerk," I think I said, under my breath, as I walked away. He was young, a star swimmer out of high school with an ego.
Thank you God that we aren't all judged and remembered by our actions as a freshman in college.
Fast-forward many years and here we are at the 2008 Olympics. Mike Cavic is seated first in the 100-meter butterfly going into the finals.
A swimmer by the name of Michael Phelps has six world records to go with the six gold medals he has from these Olympics, so far. He seems to be on his way to winning eight, unless of course Mike can hold his position. Right now Michael Phelps is seated second to Milorad "Mike" Cavic.
I think Mike can beat Michael. An upset would be the upset of all upsets, it’s true, but I think Mike can beat Michael.
See, I trained with Mike over the last year and a half. That’s not the reason why I think Mike can win. It's just that Mike has grown up a lot. He’s a lot different than that guy I met a long time ago.
Mike has worked harder than anyone this last year. He endured taunt and torment from his teammates, myself included, for being overzealous with his training. We caught him sneaking in extra workouts. Can you imagine? We were training six to eight hours a day, six days a week, and he’s got the gall, and energy, to do an extra? Without telling anyone about it?
"C'mon guys, seriously, get in. I’ve been here since 10 to eight. Practice starts at eight. You guys are 20 minutes late!" he'd scold. Then 15 minutes later our coach would show up and the rest of us would get in, after some more stretching.
Mike had matured a lot, had somehow mellowed in the right ways and matured in others. In short, Mike had become something of a champion and a team leader. He never faltered.
I even taught Mike how to talk some trash during those rare occasions I was able to blow him from the planet with my ray gun, but Mike won every game of Halo played at the Race Club in 2007 and 2008.
"Here's to the guy that is going to upset Michael Phelps in the 100-meter butterfly," I said, handing him his Race Club-embroidered terry cloth robe at the team dinner at the end of the season before heading off to the Olympic trials.
It looks like for once, I might be right.
-- Gary Hall Jr.
Photo: Milorad "Mike" Cavic during the men's 100-meter butterfly semifinal Friday. Credit: Timothy Clary / AFP/Getty Images
Gary Hall Jr. became a three-time Olympian after being diagnosed with Type I diabetes. He is an ambassador for Inspired by Diabetes, a global campaign that encourages people touched by diabetes to share their stories with others around the world. The program is a collaboration between Eli Lilly & Co. and the International Diabetes Federation’s (IDF) Unite for Diabetes initiative. In the U.S., the American Diabetes Assn. is the program’s national advocate. For more information, visit inspiredbydiabetes.com.