ROME — He defiantly spit out a mouthful of water, climbed atop the lane rope, pumped his fists furiously and tugged on that supposedly inferior swimsuit.
The message was clear: Don't mess with Michael Phelps.
Milorad Cavic tried to get in his head and wound up looking at his back, losing again to the guy who beat him at the Beijing Olympics.
This time, there was no doubt about it.
"There are always things that fire me up and motivate me," Phelps said Saturday, after becoming the first swimmer to break 50 seconds in the 100-meter butterfly. "That's just how I tick."
He stayed close over the outward lap and rallied on the return to beat Cavic with a stunning time of 49.82 at the World Swimming Championships. Cavic also broke 50 seconds, but 49.95 only got him a silver — and plenty of words to eat.
He wasn't nearly as close as last year's Beijing Olympics, when Phelps famously won by one-hundredth of a second on the way to eight gold medals, over Cavic's objections that he actually touched first.
"That satisfied me a little bit," Phelps quipped with that crooked grin of his. "I set it up perfectly."
Champaign Central product Tyler McGill was seventh in 51.42.