Swimming isn’t everything, winning is. Life is true to form; records are meant to be broken. I swam my brains out. I just tried to keep my cool and continue with my race plan: to win. I’m trying to do the best I can.
I’m not concerned with tomorrow, but with what goes on today. These are just some of the quotes by one of the greatest swimmers and Olympians of all time, the one who was nicknamed Mark the Shark: Mark Andrew Spitz. His swimming career may be short, but it was a blast – he won 7 gold medals at the 1972 Munich Olympics, a record only broken after 36 years by another Olympic legend, Michael Phelps.
The making of a legend
Mark Spitz was born on February, 10, 1950 in Modesto, California. From the very beginning his parents raised him to swim and to win. When he was two years old, the family moved to Hawaii where his father taught him to swim. When they returned to California, Spitz swam at a local swimming club. He was under formal training when he was nine, with Sherm Chavoor as his coach. H
is talent was amazing. At 10, he already had a world record and 17 national age group records. In 1965, at the age of 15, Spitz won four golds at the Maccabiah Games in Tel Aviv, his first international competition. He was also named the meet’s most outstanding athlete.
He won the 100 meter butterfly at the 1966 National AAU Championships. The next year, Spitz set his first adult world record, by finishing the 400 m freestyle in four minutes and 10.6 seconds. In the same year, he won a record of five golds in his first appearance in Pan-American games in Winnipeg. By the end of the year, he had set 10 world records. At 18, he had 26 international and national titles.
1968 Mexico Olympics
Spitz’s popularity had become enormous. He was a favorite at the 1968 Mexico Olympics and he projected he would win six gold medals. It was a disappointment, however, as he only won two team gold medals for the 4×200 m and 4×100 m freestyle relays. He also won silver silver in the 100 m butterfly and a bronze in the 100 m freestyle. While a lot of people would have been very satisfied with the result, Spitz was not. So he trained even harder for the next Olympics.
1972 Munich Olympics
Spitz’s hard training paid off big time. At the 1972 Munich Games, he won seven gold medals (four individual events and three team events) in six days. He won the gold in the 100 m freestyle, 200 m freestyle, 100 m butterfly, and the 200 butterfly. His team also won the 4×100 m freestyle, 4×200 m freestyle, and the 4×100 m medley.
These wins were all in world record time. Spitz’s medal haul made him the first Olympiad to collect seven gold medals in one Olympics. His achievements were obscured by the killing of 11 Israeli athletes by Palestinian terrorists. Spitz, a Jew himself, was considered a prime target. He was heavily protected and was flown back to America as soon as he was awarded with his last victory.
Life after swimming
Spitz retired from swimming after the Munich Olympics at a very young age of 22. He set aside any plan to have a career in dentistry and became the poster boy for Adidas, Speedo, and many other companies. In just two years, he made $ 7 million from his endorsements. He tried to enter show business, but was not successful. F
ortunately, Spitz invested his money wisely. He later became the proprietor of a real-estate agency in Los Angeles. He tried to qualify for the 1992 Barcelona Olympics but the sports had become faster and the former champion just could not manage to break the required time. At present, Spitz is self-employed as a motivational speaker and a corporate spokesperson.