- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 1, 2009

ROME | Michael Phelps wouldn’t take the bait. He’ll settle this one in the pool, in the race that really matters, wearing his same ol’ suit.

Milorad Cavic can have the spotlight. For now.

Still convinced he beat Phelps at the Beijing Olympics, Cavic took some verbal jabs at Phelps on Friday - then took away his world record in the semifinals of the 100-meter butterfly.

“They know I’m a player,” Cavic boasted. “They know I’ve got a great deal of speed.”

Phelps wasn’t too bothered about giving up his record. He knows the real race is Saturday.

“I try to keep most comments to myself to fire me up on the inside,” Phelps said, savoring his third gold medal of the event after leading off for the Americans in the 800 freestyle relay. “I’ve had success doing that in the past, and I’m not about to start making comments now. I’ll let the swimming do my talking.”

After the morning prelims, Cavic said he’s tired of hearing complaints from the Phelps camp about competing in an inferior suit, even offering to buy him one of the polyurethane models responsible for most of the world records at the Foro Italico.

In the evening semifinals, Cavic nearly became the first swimmer to break 50 seconds, settling for a world record of 50.01 in his speedy Arena X-Glide suit. Phelps was the second-fastest qualifier at 50.48.

“I didn’t want to go out so fast, but I had so much energy in my body that I couldn’t help it,” said Cavic, who broke Phelps’ mark of 50.22. “I’m capable of swimming under 50, which would be enough to win the gold.”

The two will be side-by-side Saturday night in the rematch of their thrilling race in China, won by Phelps by the smallest margin possible - a hundredth of a second. In that race, Phelps was far behind at the turn and ad-libbed the finish to pull it out, crashing into the wall with an extra half-stroke to beat a gliding Cavic.

The Serbian still believes he got there first but wasn’t credited with the win because Phelps put more pressure on the touchpad. Whatever the case, Phelps knows he must be much closer at the end of the first lap if he wants to have any chance of catching Cavic on the return.

“The biggest thing I’ve got to do is go out with him and try not give him too much open water,” Phelps said.

Less than an hour after his 100 fly semi, Phelps took the leadoff leg of the 800 freestyle relay won by the United States with a world record of 6 minutes, 58.55 seconds - one-hundredth of a second faster than the gold medal time at the Olympics.

Phelps was again no match for Germany’s Paul Biedermann, who routed him in the 200 free and put his team more than 1 1/2 seconds ahead on the first leg. But Phelps had the better supporting cast, teaming with Ricky Berens, David Walter and Ryan Lochte to set the sixth world record of the night and 35th of the meet.

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