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winner of a record 7 gold medals at the 1972 Summer Olympic Games
Mark Andrew Spitz was born in Modesto, California, on February 10, 1950. His family moved to Hawaii when he was two years old, and it was there that Mark learned to swim. The family moved to Sacramento, California, when he was six, and he began swimming competitively at the local YMCA pool soon after. By age nine he was training at the Arden Hills Swim Club in Sacramento, and by age ten he held 17 national age-group and one world record. When Mark was fourteen the family moved to Santa Clara so he could train with George Haines at the Santa Clara Swim Club. At sixteen, Mark won the first of an eventual 24 AAU titles, for the 100-meter butterfly at the National AAU Championships. In 1967 he won five gold medals at the Pan-American Games in Winnipeg. By 1968 Spitz was the holder of 10 world records.
Spitz boasted that he would win six gold medals at the 1968 Summer Olympic Games in Mexico City, but only managed to take two team golds -- for the 4x100-meter freestyle and the 4x200-meter freestyle relays. He also took a silver in the 100-meter butterfly and a bronze in the 100-meter freestyle.
Following his "disappointing" performance in Mexico City, Spitz decided to enroll at Indiana University so he could train with legendary coach Doc Counsilman, who had also coached him for the Olympics. Between 1968 and 1972, while taking pre-dental courses, he won eight individual NCAA swimming titles. In 1971, he won the James E. Sullivan Award as the top amateur athlete in the United States, and he was named World Swimmer of the Year in 1969, 1971, and 1972.
Spitz arrived at the 1972 Summer Olympic Games in Munich boasting once again that he would take six gold medals. This time, however, he not only lived up to his boast but improved upon it as well. By the time the Olympics were over Spitz had won an unprecedented 7 gold medals -- a feat that was not surpassed until Michael Phelps won 8 gold medals at the 2012 Summer Olympic Games. He also set a new world record in each of the seven events -- 100-meter freestyle (51.22), 200-meter freestyle (1:52.78), 100-meter butterfly (54.27), 200-meter butterfly (2:00.70), 4x100-meter freestyle (3:26.42), 4x200-meter freestyle (7:35.78), and 4x100-meter medley (3:48.16).
Spitz retired from competitive swimming after the Olympics and tried to get into television. His management team got him booked on The Tonight Show, the Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour, The Dean Martin Show, and other shows, but Spitz was clearly uncomfortable as a television personality and he ended his foray into show business in 1974. In 1992 film maker Bud Greenspan offered to pay Spitz a million dollars if he qualified for the Summer Olympic Games at Barcelona. Filmed by Greenspan's cameras, the 41-year-old Spitz failed to meet the qualifying time. Since retiring from competitive swimming Spitz has found a new calling as a motivational speaker.
Robinson Library >> Recreation >> Swimming
This page was last updated on June 15, 2017.