Spitz, Mark – American Jewish Olympian Swimmer

Mark Spitz was born the first of three children in Modesto, California to parents Arnold and Lenore Spitz. At age two, his family moved to Hawaii and he swam almost every day at Waikiki Beach. When Mark was just six years old, he began to compete at his local swim club. Before he was 10, Spitz held 17 national age-group records, and one world record. His family moved again when he was 14 years old, this time to train under George F. Haines of the Santa Clara Swim Club. During his four years there, Mark held national high school records in every stroke and in every distance. It was an unprecedented achievement.

The 1965 Maccabiah Games was Mark’s first international competition. At the age of 15, Spitz won four gold medals and was named most outstanding athlete. In 1966, at 16, he won the 100-meter butterfly at the National AAU Championships, the first of 24 AAU titles. Mark emerged on the world swimming stage when, in 1967, he set his first world record at a small California meet in the 400-meter freestyle. Also in 1967, Mark won five gold medals at the V Pan American Games in Winnipeg, and set a record that was not surpassed for 40 years.

One of the greatest living sports legends, Mark Spitz might be remembered best by his astonishing win of seven gold medals at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich. His performances were even more remarkable considering world records were set in all seven events. (blogger’s note: ‘7 medals in an olympiad’ was the record until Michael Phelps won 8 golds in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Spitz said of Phelps: “…not only is this guy the greatest swimmer of all time and the greatest Olympian of all time, he’s maybe the greatest athlete of all time,”)
But back to Mark’s story:
In one of the most dramatic instances in Olympic history, Mark won his final competition only hours before Palestinian terrorists captured and eventually murdered 11 Israeli athletes in the Munich Olympic Village. In an effort to keep the athletes safe, Spitz was whisked out of the country under heavy security guard.

Mark Spitz is also well-known for having an iconic mustache throughout the Olympics. During a time when most swimmers were clean-shaven, Mark was rebellious and swam with facial hair. Most swimmers believe body hair slows a person down, but Mark called his mustache a “good luck piece” and kept it throughout his Olympic competitions.

He was voted “Athlete of the century” in water sports and one of six “Greatest Olympians” by Sports Illustrated in 2000. Between 1965 and 1972, Spitz won nine Olympic gold medals, one silver, and one bronze; five Pan-American golds; 31 National U.S. Amateur Athletic Union titles; and eight U.S. National Collegiate Athletic Association Championships. During those years, he set 33 World records.

most of the above is excerpted from the site: http://www.markspitzusa.com

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Posted on September 18, 2011, in Racing Sports and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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