Tough Love Drove A Wedge Between Olympic Champion Cavic And His Father

8. December, 2011 News, Sport 7 comments

Tough love drove Serbia’s swimming champ Milorad Čavić to achieve his best, he said. But that same force for good drove a wedge between Čavić and his father, and could keep them apart as Čavić prepares for London 2012. The American-born Serb has told how his father refused to speak to him for three months after Čavic failed to bring home a medal, and that rift could keep him away from the Olympics.

“I don’t mean to insult or spit on my father but he was really, really hard on me,’ said Čavić. “In 2004 I had some trouble with my swimming suit during the semi final of the 100m butterfly. I was ready to win a medal. I thought the bronze was completely realistic. I was leading the first 50m by a long shot. I turned and coming home from the 50m to 60m mark, which is my strongest part of the race, I went from first to last. 

“Everyone knew right away there was something horribly wrong. Sure enough, I didn’t qualify.

“After that, my father did not speak to me for three months. I had failed him. This is the level we are talking about. It was very extreme. I tried to talk with him about it one time. The best answer I got was that he had watched the documentary about Andre Agassi and saw how hardcore his father was towards him. Very tough love. But I hadn’t done anything wrong and, even if I did, this was not the way to behave. They don’t understand basic things, like it is OK to fail. From failure, you have to use that and learn.

“My father grew up without a father, without a role model, so I forgave him for that. He just didn’t know. Most people would have been crushed, wouldn’t have pulled through it. But one of the things that sets me apart from other people is my self-determination.

Throughout his training, Čavićlooked to his mother for support, even though she did not always understand his athletic focus. “My mother has always been a very positive force in my life, so I really hope she will come to London,’ said Čavić. “My mother is my queen. Good or bad, she’s there for me. But my father not so much. I haven’t been back to LA in about a year and a half. My mother visited me this last August. I don’t get to see them very often.”

Čavić was born in Anaheim, Southern California to immigrant parents. His father’s Serbian upbringing formed his attitude to raising children, Čavić said. “My mother came from a village and my father grew up here [Belgrade]. During the communist era, when he was growing up, he didn’t have a father. He was always studying and his mother was very communist. She pushed him to study, study, study. He was growing up on the outskirts of the city and during that era in that region of the city the students had to study Russian. But they moved to another region, just so he could study English. It was that kind of time. It was really hard.

“Unfortunately my parents were never athletes and my brother and I were always great in what we did. My brother got his uni completely paid for, as did I, and then he went off to play basketball professionally in Europe for two seasons. It was very good for my family, financially especially, but the downside of that is that they never really understood. It is completely a mindset. My dad sees Kobe Bryantdoing these amazing things with the ball and he’s like: did you see what he just did? You have to learn that. But you cannot learn some things. They are just instinct. You either have it or you don’t.

“To be an athlete was a great thing but for a lot of people, academics was the only way. That’s what [my father] did and, as a result, he never really understood the mental aspect of sport or understood sports in general. For my younger brother, it was really hard growing up beside me since I was so much more successful at what I was doing than he was at that time, even though he was a star basketball player in his team. He was never quite achieving the same level of things as I was, and so my dad was extra hard on him, of course. But in life, as hard as my dad was on me and my brother, things turned out OK. For that same reason, who knows, maybe his ways and his methods were justified.

“I often see the families of my colleagues back at uni and even today, through good and bad they have the same support from their families and I think to myself, how much stronger I could have been had I not gotten down on myself as much as I did at one point. But I guess it made me stronger. And I’ll never know what could have been. I am still too young to know why they did some things and didn’t do some others.

“I am fortunate that things worked out the way they did but, as an athlete who’s been there and back, I feel I will do things much differently with my children.”

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  1. Anonymous

    12 / 13 / 2011 6:04 am

    OMG! this guy just CRIES AND CRIES about everything – he complains about everything. WHAT a joke,

    how can you stand interviewing and wasting so much blog space on him…

    wild rooster i am very disappointed.


  2. Petar D

    12 / 13 / 2011 4:02 pm

    I disagree with Anonymous above. It is interesting to hear from one of our sports men to hear him speak openly about things I havent heard from him before. He sounds very honest and genuine and i like that.

    Thank you Wild Rooster for bringing us these interviews. Keep it up!


  3. Anonymous

    12 / 13 / 2011 6:03 pm

    @Petar D: yes and you probably think Tito was a great hero and that croatians are your brothers and that milosevic was the cause of everything! 🙂 good for you! keep it up, why don’t you let the Kosovo Albanians have one of your kidneys while you are at it.

    If he has a problem with his father he should honor him enough TO SPEAK TO HIM ABOUT THEIR PROBLEMS not go to a third party and try and get sympathy. IT IS NOT OK to do this, who gave Milorad milk as a child and kept him warm at night and fought to give him a roof over his head, all this means nothing right? Because a father came from a harsh land and doesn’t baby him and tell him i love you a thousand times a day.. that is a reason to go to someone you don’t know and portray yourself as a victim instead of resolving everything with your father and talking to him about it while they still have time.

    It’s called arrogance Petar D. And self-entitlement, people who grow up in the area that Milorad is from ALL HAVE IT.

    He hasn’t said one good thing about Serbia or Serbian people or anything in that regard. He came to a poor country that has been raped by the “humantarian” Europeans, who are barely surviving day to day and have been slaves to Islam for 600 years, oppressed and invaded by every fallen empire and now he is going to lecture them about how to live.

    Give it a break.. that takes some kind of ego.


  4. 12 / 17 / 2011 8:34 pm

    ^ Wow Anonymous, you have some mental issues.


  5. Anonymous

    12 / 17 / 2011 8:42 pm

    yah yah sure, you must be one of the “humanitarians” – did you come for oil?

    your comment is boring and tired, anyone who fights against the hate against Serbs has “mental issues” right –

    save it for your nazi buddies.


  6. 12 / 18 / 2011 2:14 am

    Come for oil?? I’m a Serb too, buddy, and I’m telling you you’re a raving lunatic. Shut up and take your medication!!!


  7. Anonymous

    12 / 18 / 2011 3:52 am

    yah yah sure sure, that is all you Yugoslavs croats and muslims know how to do…you do nothing but accuse “this guy is mental” “that person is crazy” blah blah blah you are TIRED and BORING!

    give me some evidence of where something I wrote was as a lunatic…oh you mean the 78 Serbs that live in Pristina now – what a great city – thank you Europe thank you Wild Rooster’s UK!

    Or wait do you mean the 600 years of Islamic slavery over Christian Serbs?
    Was that something a lunatic writes?

    Oh thats right Tito taught you to hate Serbs, yes you are one of those kind. Well your kind is going to lose, doesn’t matter how many of you there are..

    You are the lunatic, you are the one that needs medication, you are the one that is embarrasing yourself –

    so it is TIME YOU SHUT UP.





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