4 minute read

Mark Spitz

Prepares Seriously

Prior to the athletic events, Spitz spoke to the media and though he was brief, his remarks reflected his newfound seriousness. "I can't devote too much time to you guys," he told the press. "I need the time to psyche myself up."

That he did. The first event was the 200-meter butterfly. Spitz won it in a record-breaking 2:00.7. His pure joy launched him from the water and he stood by the poolside, arms raised in victory. That same day, he swam his leg in the 4x100-meter freestyle relay, and though his team took the gold, Spitz was a bit unnerved by teammate Jerry Heidenreich's time, which clocked .12 of a second faster than his.


1950 Born February 10 in Modesto, California
1958 Begins swimming competitively
1961 Comes under guidance of coach Sherm Chavoor
1965 Competes in Maccabiah Games in Tel Aviv, his first international event
1966 Competes in National Amateur Athletic Union 100-meter butterfly
1967 Competes in Pan-American Games in Winnipeg, Canada
1968 Vows to win gold in all events at Mexico City Olympics but takes gold only in the 4x100-meter and 4x200-meter freestyle relays
1969 Graduates from Indiana University, where he swims for coach James "Doc" Counsilman
1972 Leaves Olympic Games early after winning gold medals and after killing of Israeli athletes in Olympic village
1973 Formally retires from swimming
1973 Signs with William Morris Agency, earning $5 million in endorsements
1973 Marries Suzy Weiner
1987 Autobiography Seven Golds published
1989 Attempts a comeback and begins training for the 1992 Barcelona Olympics
1992 Fails to qualify in the 100-meter butterfly and concedes defeat, beginning second retirement
1998 Proposes creating initiative to address problem of swimmers and performance-enhancing drugs

Awards and Accomplishments

1960 Wins seventeen national age-group titles
1966 Wins first of 24 national Amateur Athletic Union championships
1967 World records in 400-meter freestyle, 100-meter butterfly, and 200-meter butterfly events; five gold medals at Pan-American Games
1968 Individual bronze and silver medalist at Mexico City Olympics, gold in the 4x100-meter and 4x200-meter freestyle relays
1969 World Swimmer of the Year
1971 Amateur Athletic Union's James E. Sullivan Memorial Award; World Swimmer of the Year
1972 World records in all seven events at Munich Olympics, first athlete to win seven Olympic gold medals in one Olympiad; World Swimmer of the Year; Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year
1977 Inducted into International Swimming Hall of Fame in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, as an honor swimmer
1983 Inducted into U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame, with first class of inductees

Nevertheless, he won gold in his second solo event, the 200-meter freestyle in 1:52.78, though it ignited controversy from the Soviet contingent. The brouhaha began when Spitz stood barefoot on the medal stand, shoes in hand. During the national anthem, he dropped his shoes by his side, only to retrieve them and wave them to the applauding audience. The Soviets complained to the International Olympic Committee, charging Spitz with

Mark Spitz

promoting a commercial product. Spitz defended himself by saying the gesture was completely spontaneous, the shoes were old, and he was receiving no financial reward. Spitz was cleared and concentrated on the next event, the 100-meter butterfly, his favorite. He won it by a full body length in a record 54.27 seconds.

After the 4x200-meter freestyle relay, which brought yet another gold for the Americans, the swimmer got cold feet. Spitz had so far swum a perfect Olympics, winning gold in all five events. With two more events to go and a case of nerves, Spitz contacted his former coach, Sherm Chavoor, who was in Munich with the American women's team. Concerned about both saving his strength for the 4x100-meter medley relay, and haunted by Heidenreich's performance in the 400-meter relay, Spitz asked Chavoor whether he ought to duck out of the next event, the 100-meter freestyle. The coach urged Spitz to compete, and warned that sitting out the race would look as though he had lost his competitive edge. In a later interview, Spitz told journalists, "I just tried to keep my cool and continue with my race plan: to win."

Spitz proved unpredictable to his competitors in the 100-meter freestyle as he swam the first lap at full strength, being the first to touch the wall in 24.56 seconds. During the semifinal heat, he had stayed behind, finishing after Australia's defending champion Michael Wenden and Heidenreich. But during the final it was a completely different race. Though he lost his rhythm during the second lap, Spitz continued charging ahead to beat Heidenreich by half a stroke, winning the event in 51.22, shaving his own world record by .25 seconds. The final event was the 4 × 100-meter relay. For Spitz, as a member of the American team, this would be the final hurdle in a bid to make a clean, unprecedented sweep of Olympic gold. On September 4, 1972, Spitz, in the Munich Schwimhalle, won his seventh gold in his seventh event, all of which set world records.

Additional topics

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