Mark Spitz – Wins most golds at an Olympic | Sunday Observer

Mark Spitz – Wins most golds at an Olympic

9 January, 2022

Mark Andrew Spitz (born February 10, 1950) is an American former competitive swimmer and nine-time Olympic champion. He was the most successful athlete at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, winning seven gold medals, all in world record time. This was an achievement that lasted for 36 years until it was surpassed by fellow American Michael Phelps, who won eight golds at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.

Nine Olympic golds

Between 1968 and 1972, Spitz won nine Olympic golds, a silver and a bronze, in addition to five Pan American golds, 31 Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) titles and eight National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) titles. During those years, he set 35 world records, two of which were in trials and unofficial.

Swimming World Magazine named him World Swimmer of the Year in 1969, 1971 and 1972. He was the third athlete to win nine Olympic gold medals.

Spitz was the first of three children of Lenore Sylvia (Smith) and Arnold Spitz. His family is Jewish; his father’s family was from Hungary and his mother, originally surnamed ‘Sklotkovick’, was from Russia.

When Spitz was two years old, his family moved to Honolulu, Hawaii, where he swam at Waikiki beach every day. “You should have seen that little boy dash into the ocean. He’d run like he was trying to commit suicide,” Lenore Spitz told a reporter for Time in 1968.

At age nine, he was training at the Arden Hills Swim Club in Sacramento with swimming coach Sherm Chavoor, who mentored six additional Olympic medal winners.

Seventeen national Records

Spitz held one world age-group record and 17 national records at the age of 10. From 1964 to 1968, Mark trained with Haines at SCSC and Santa Clara High School. During his four years there, Mark held national high school records in every stroke and in every distance.

In 1966 at age 16, he won the 100-metre butterfly at the AAU national championships, the first of his 24 total AAU titles.

The following year, Spitz emerged on the world swimming stage when he set his first world record at a small California meet with a time of 4:10.60 in the 400-metre freestyle.

He won five gold medals at the 1967 Pan American Games, setting a record that lasted until 2007 when Brazilian swimmer, Thiago Pereira, won six golds at the XV Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro.

Summer Olympics Munich

At the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, Spitz was back to repeat his quest for the six gold medals. He did even better, winning seven Olympic gold medals. Spitz set a new world record in each of the seven events – 100-metre freestyle (51.22), 200-metre freestyle (1:52.78), 100-metre butterfly (54.27), 200-metre butterfly (2:00.70), 4×100-metre freestyle relay (3:26.42), 4×200-metre freestyle relay (7:35.78), and 4×100-metre medley relay (3:48.16).

Spitz was originally reluctant to swim the 100-metre freestyle, fearing that he would not win the gold medal.

Minutes before the race, he confessed on the pool deck to ABC’s Donna de Varona, “I know, I say I don’t want to swim before every event, but this time I’m serious. If I swim six and win six, I’ll be a hero. If I swim seven and win six, I’ll be a failure.” Spitz won by half a stroke in a world-record time of 51.22 seconds.

Spitz is one of five Olympians to win nine or more career gold medals: Larisa Latynina, Paavo Nurmi, and Carl Lewis also have nine; only Phelps has won more with 23. Spitz’s record of seven gold medals in a single Olympics was not surpassed until Phelps broke the record at the 2008 Summer Olympics. After he had completed his events, Spitz left Munich early as a result of the Munich Massacre, where eleven Israeli athletes were taken hostage and later murdered by Palestinian terrorists.

Following the Munich Olympics, Spitz retired from competition even though he was only 22 years old.