Michael (Miodrag) Milovanovic was full of life, eagerly looking forward to a high school graduation celebration for his son, a state champion Brophy College Preparatory swimmer.
But Milovanovic, 48, will never see the graduation of Matt (Mateja) or follow his college swimming career at the University of Arizona. He won’t be able to watch the success of his daughter, Mimi (Mihajla), who just completed her freshman year at Loyola University on a track scholarship.
Milovanovic became the latest cyclist struck and killed in Arizona on May 24 by a motorist. The driver’s SUV crossed the white line into the shoulder, hitting the triathlete while he was training on Happy Valley Road east of Pima in Scottsdale.
“He was extremely excited to see what the future would bring his kids,” said Rodney Kinney, Milovanovic’s friend and training partner at Ocotillo Village Health Club. “He was so proud. He talked about them all the time.”
Milovanovic also leaves behind a wife, Suzi, and hundreds of friends who packed his memorial service Wednesday at Paradise Memorial Gardens.
“We all knew that Michael was well loved by people, but being at the cemetery and seeing so many people there was amazing, but not that surprising,” Kinney said.
Struck on a ride
Milovanovic was riding eastbound on Happy Valley Road with his cousin when the SUV struck him, causing traumatic injuries.
“While the driver of the SUV stopped,” Kinney said, “I understood he kept his distance … I personally can’t imagine myself hitting someone and not being close by in case there was anything I could do.”
Scottsdale police said the driver is cooperating with investigators. It will be up to city prosecutors to determine whether to bring charges, said Sgt. Ben Hoster, a Scottsdale police spokesman.
Hoster said although the driver did not appear to be impaired at the time of the accident, toxicology
tests will bring a final determination.
Milovanovic becomes the latest grim statistic for cyclists who are increasingly in danger on roads across the U.S.
Nearly 47,000 cyclists are hit by cars annually in the U.S., and more than 850 die in those collisions each year, according to 2018 figures.
Outside magazine reported this month that after declining for most of the 1990s and 2000s, cyclist fatalities have been on the rise since 2010 and are now at 30-year highs. Pedestrian crash rates show a similar pattern.
The magazine reports numerous studies have found that SUVS and trucks are more deadly to vulnerable road users in almost any crash and are at least 50 percent more likely to kill, according to a comprehensive review of studies from 2010 published in the journal Traffic Injury Prevention.
Kinney said Milovanovic is the third cyclist he personally knew killed by motorists in the last four years.
One was killed by a driver under the influence, another by a young driver who was texting.
Former pro soccer player turned volunteer and triathlete
Milovanovic, of Serbian descent, played professional soccer during his earlier years in Europe and shared his love of the sport as an active volunteer youth soccer coach.
“The little kids loved him,” Kinney said. “He made the game fun and just had a magnetic draw to everyone. It didn’t matter how old you were. He was an amazing guy.”
Kinney, Director of Programs and Events at the Ocotillo Village Health Club, encouraged Milovanovic to try out the sport of triathlon, as a way to change up his normal workout routine. Milovanovic became hooked and completed the Arizona Ironman in 2018 and was training in hopes of completing another Ironman later this or next year.
Kinney gave Milovanovic his old triathlon bike, a special Fuji that once belonged to ex professional triathlete and Olympian, Matty Reed, who competed in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
“It had a lot of sentimental value to me,” Kinney said. “I thought if I’m going to give my bike to someone, it should be to someone with a strong drive and who would be proud of its history when he rode it. Michael understood that. He was as proud to ride that bike as I was when I had it.”
Kinney has gone through some personal hurdles over the last few months, and recalls Milovanovic going out of his way to check in on him:
“He would come in every day to the Health Club and knock on my office door. It was like clockwork. When COVID19 happened and the club had to close down, he made sure he stand in touch me at least once a week or more just to check in and catch up on things,” Kinney said. “He always had a way of putting things in a positive perspective. He is going to be greatly missed.”