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Mark Spitz

Glory Days

Spitz was no quitter. Knowing he had a long road ahead, he vowed to commit himself to training with the finest. Recruited by Indiana University in Bloomington, which had one of the nation's most outstanding aquatics program, Spitz enrolled in 1969. A pre-dental student, Spitz worked with working with James "Doc" Counsilman, former national swimming champion, coach, and kinetics researcher. By the time he graduated, Spitz, who had been captain of the Hoosiers, earned World Swimmer of the Year award from Swimming World magazine in 1967, 1971 and 1972. In 1971 he became the first Jewish recipient of the AAU's annual James E. Sullivan Memorial Award for athleticism, leadership, character, and sportsmanship.

Spitz won five gold medals at the 1967 Pan American Games in Winnipeg, thirty-one AAU titles, eight National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) championships (four times in the 100-yard butterfly), and 33 world records. His contact with coaches Chavoor, Haines, and Counsilman, all members of the International Swimming Hall of Fame in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, helped Spitz mature as a man and a swimmer. As the 1972 Olympics advanced, Spitz had established himself. Gone was the pretense of 1968 and in its place was a focused competitor—with a mustache.

It took four months to grow, but Spitz was proud of it. He had intended to shave his mustache for the Munich Olympics but since he did so well at the trials—he broke the world record in the 200-meter butterfly—he decided the mustache was a "good-luck piece." During a practice swim, Spitz noticed the Soviets photographing him. Asked whether the mustache added unwanted drag to the swimmer. Spitz answered, "No, it actually deflects water from my mouth and allows me to keep my head in a lower position that helps my speed," he later told Newsweek magazine. His answer was pure invention, but the Soviets didn't know that. Suddenly, several Soviet swimmers began sporting mustaches in competition. Another Spitz tactic included changing his usual stroke to a highly inefficient one during practice, so that the spying Soviets might again be thrown off. When they inquired about his "unconventional" stroke, Spitz again spouted nonsense, this time about how the ungainly stroke actually builds muscle.

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Famous Sports StarsSwimmingMark Spitz Biography - "swimming Isn't Everything", Glory Days, Prepares Seriously, Chronology, Awards And Accomplishments - CONTACT INFORMATION, SELECTED WRITINGS BY SPITZ: