Phelps’ Beijing rival Milorad Cavic retires

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Another swimming rivalry has sunk to the bottom of the pool.

When Michael Phelps retired at the conclusion of the London Olympics, the Michael-Phelps-vs.-Ryan-Lochte discussion came to an abrupt halt. Wednesday morning, another Phelps rival* (see below) hung up his Speedo: Milorad Cavic.

You probably remember Cavic from the Beijing Games, when he appeared to beat Phelps in the 100m butterfly final. It would have ended Phelps’ now legendary eight-for-eight run at those Games, but the timing pads draped over the ends of each lane never lie. Phelps’ last-second half-stroke was enough to get him to the wall first, as he was first to compress the 12mm thick pad the required 2mm with 2.5kg of pressure.

In a fraction of a second the world went from thinking Phelps had lost a race to getting confirmation of yet another victory, the seventh gold.

A similar situation occurred at the 2009 World Championships in Rome, although this time Phelps beat the Serbian by a comfortable (really?) 0.13 seconds.

Now for an explanation of the above asterisk. Cavic is recognized as a rival to Phelps, but they really had only two close races – Beijing and Rome. Cavic was a distant fifth behind Phelps at the 2007 World Championships, while in London he placed fourth – 0.60 of a second slower than Phelps.

Phelps ended his career with 22 Olympic medals (18 gold); Cavic has one. Phelps finished with 33 Worlds medals (26 gold); Cavic earned two (one gold).

Technically it was a rivalry, albeit a brief one. Either way, Phelps and Cavic staged one of the most exciting finishes in Olympic history.

Cavic’s legacy: The guy who nearly slayed a giant.

Michael Johnson took Olympic mindset in stroke recovery

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Michael Johnson‘s first walk, reportedly three days after suffering a stroke in the summer, was 200 meters down a hospital corridor.

“It took about 15 minutes,” Johnson said in a BBC video, detailing his full recovery in recent interviews.

Johnson, who at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics swept the 200m (in a world-record 19.32 seconds) and the 400m, suffered what he called “a mini stroke” after a home workout in late August.

Johnson felt not pain but tingling leaving his home gym and underwent a 20-minute MRI. The 50-year-old, who worked out regularly and was in otherwise great physical shape, almost fell rising out of the machine.

“Couldn’t put any weight on left side, no longer could really move my left leg,” Johnson said in the BBC interview. “The numbness of my left arm, which was sort of mild at the beginning and up to that point, was really intense at that point. I couldn’t feel a lot of my arm. You immediately start to think about, what’s my life going to be like going forward?”

There was no immediate answer.

“You start to think about loved ones — is my wife going to have to take care of me for the rest of my life?” Johnson said, according to the Telegraph. “Am I going to be able to walk again? Am I going to be in a wheelchair? Am I going to be able to stand in the shower or go to the restroom alone? You’re forced to think about what your life might be like if that worse-case scenario is reality.”

He began physical therapy early the next week. After that first walk, the distance equivalent of a half-lap of the track that he owned in the 1990s, he told his wife, “I will make a full recovery, and I will make a full recovery faster than anyone has ever done it before,” according to the Telegraph.

Within two weeks, Johnson was backing that up. He tweeted a photo of himself on Sept. 13, his 51st birthday, grimacing while lifting a square-shaped weight with each hand. “Almost back to normal. No days off! Even today. My birthday!” the caption read.

On Sept. 27, Johnson tweeted that it had been grueling, but he relearned to walk and made a full recovery.

“Once I knew that I will make a full recovery, and once I started to believe that, it’s very similar to the type of situation that I experienced as an athlete training for the Olympic Games, then all of a sudden suffering a pulled hamstring,” said Johnson, who fell to the track in the 2000 Olympic Trials 200m final with an upper left leg injury, then won the 400m at his last Games in Sydney. “The reward, in this particular situation, was going to be even greater, was going to be able to walk again, regaining my mobility, regaining my independence.”

MORE: Michael Johnson: My advice to Usain Bolt on retirement

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Tatjana Hüfner, 2010 Olympic luge champion, to retire after this season

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Tatjana Hüfner, a 2010 Olympic luge champion and five-time world champion in singles, said she will retire after this season, according to German newspaper Bild.

Hüfner, 35, cited recent health problems, including back and leg injuries leading into her last Olympics in PyeongChang, where she finished fourth, missing a fourth straight medal by .69 of a second (Hüfner dropped from second place going into the last run). Plus breaking a rib in a training crash this preseason, plus suffering food poisoning, according to the report.

Hüfner, who reportedly said before February’s Olympics that they would be her final Games, has been arguably the most integral luger in Germany’s recent dominance in female sliding.

Her Olympic career began as a spectator at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games, watching Sylke Otto lead a German medal sweep. Later, Hüfner would break Otto’s record with five world singles titles, plus join Otto on the podium at Torino 2006, earning bronze. Hüfner took gold in Vancouver, then silver behind the new leading woman, Natalie Geisenberger, in Sochi.

Huefner spent offseasons scaling European peaks such as Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in the Alps, the Matterhorn, and the Sella in northern Italy.

This season’s world championships are in Winterberg, Germany, in January.

NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.

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