Mark Andrew Spitz (born February 10, 1950) is a retired American swimmer, best known for winning seven gold medals at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games, an achievement surpassed only when Michael Phelps won his eighth gold medal of the 2008 Olympics. Between 1968 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. He was named World Swimmer of the Year in 1969, 1971 and 1972.
Spitz continued to show his tremendous talents by the early age of 10, holding 17 national age-group and one world record. At 14, his family moved to Santa Clara so Spitz could train with George F. Haines of the Santa Clara Swim Club 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 . It was a remarkable and unprecedented achievement. In 1966, at 16, he won the 100 meter butterfly at the National AAU Championships, the first of his 24 AAU titles. The following year, 1967 Mark set his first world record at a small California meet, in the 400 meter freestyle, with a time of 4:10.60, and emerged on the world swimming stage.
He returned to Israel in 1969, following the Mexico Olympics, to again compete in the Maccabiah. This time he won six gold medals. He was again named outstanding athlete of the Games.
In 1985, Spitz lit a torch to open the Olympic games.
In 2005, he was a member of the U.S. delegation at the 17th Maccabiah Games.
In 2005, he spoke at the Maccabi Games Opening Ceremonies, which was held in Richmond, Virginia. The Weinstein JCC in Richmond was one of the Host JCC's for the 2005 games with over 1,000 teenagers participating in various sports, including swimming.
He was nicknamed "Mark the Shark" by his teammates.
Spitz is one of five Olympians to win nine or more career gold medals: Larissa Latynina, Paavo Nurmi and Carl Lewis also have nine; only swimmer Michael Phelps has won more with 14. Spitz's record of seven gold medals in a single Olympics was not surpassed until 2008 by Michael Phelps at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Spitz was evacuated from Munich when 11 athletes and officials from Israel's Olympic team were kidnapped and later killed by Palestinian terrorists. Officials were worried that Spitz might be targeted because of his Jewish heritage. He had already finished his competition.
In 1999, Spitz ranked #33 on ESPN SportsCentury 50 Greatest Athletes, the only aquatic athlete to make the list.
After his retirement at age 22, he was managed by the William Morris Agency, which tried to get him into show business while his name was still hot. In 1973–74, Spitz appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson and TV series such as The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour and Emergency! as paramedic Pete Barlow. Spitz went to work for ABC Sports in 1976 and worked on many sports presentations, including coverage of the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal and the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. In 1985 he appeared as a TV announcer in Challenge of a Lifetime. He continued as a broadcaster for some time, but within a few years, he had all but vanished as a public figure.
In 2006 he received critical praise for his narration of Freedom's Fury, a Hungarian documentary about the Olympic water polo team's famous Blood in the Water match against Russia during the Revolution of 1956—considered the most famous match in water polo history. The film was executive produced by Quentin Tarantino and Lucy Liu, and made its debut at the Tribeca Film Festival.
He appeared in a ad for the California Milk Advisory Board. One of his print advertisements featured the caption "I always drink it-is something I like to do. I want to be loved by the mothers."
In November 2007, Spitz made a cameo appearance on Amanda Beard's first television commercial (for GoDaddy) featuring her own seven Olympic medals (won between 1996–2004). The ad was entitled "Shock".
The cartoon strip Doonesbury featured the character "Zonker" where he kept thinking he saw Mark Spitz everywhere until he was finally cured when a character of Spitz ended up sitting next to him at a lunch counter.
At Indiana University from 1968-72, he was a pre-dental student and member of Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity. Time Magazine asked him if he wanted to return to dental school after the Olympics. "I always wanted to be a dentist from the time I was in high school, and I was accepted to dental school in the spring of 1972. I was planning to go, but after the Olympics there were other opportunities. I did some television and speaking engagements, and things just went from there."
Mark Spitz is frequently erroneously referred to as a dentist. According to the Indiana University School of Dentistry, Mark Spitz was planning on attending in the fall of 1972, but instead he moved to California. In 2006, Spitz sued Procter & Gamble as they failed to receive permission to include him in a promotional 'History of Dentistry' poster for Crest. He was quoted in the Chicago Tribune in June, 2004 saying, “I’m probably the most famous dentist who never became a dentist in the world.”
Per his official Web site, Spitz is currently self-employed as a corporate spokesperson and motivational speaker. However, Sports Yahoo! lists his occupation as a stock broker and motivational speaker. According to a recent interview "Spitz became a stockbroker in 2002 and has since moved into private equity. He is now also dabbling in the "water business," as he calls it, and is in negotiations to build a water-bottling facility on aquifer-rich land that he and a business partner own.
He has pursued various entrepreneurial projects with former NBA player Rick Barry. He travels the world delivering about 25 lectures a year. His biography, The Extraordinary Life of An Olympic Champion by Richard J. Foster was released in July of 2008.
People always asked Spitz, "Do you still swim?" Remarkably, the answer most of the time was "no.
Mark Spitz is quoted as saying, "When I went to the Olympics, I had every intention of shaving the mustache off, but I realized I was getting so many comments about it--and everybody was talking about it--that I decided to keep it. I had some fun with a Russian coach who asked me if my mustache slowed me down. I said, "No, as a matter of fact, it deflects water away from my nose, allows my rear end to rise and make me bullet-shaped in the water, and that's what had allowed me to swim so great. He's translating as fast as he can for the other coaches, and the following year every Russian male swimmer had a mustache.
According to a Sports Illustrated article, on Valentine's Day in 1988, after talking about shaving off his mustache for a year, he finally did. "He looked great with it, don't get me wrong," explained Suzy, "but he looks so handsome without it.
When he was asked why he shaved it off he responded "well, one - I'm not swimming anymore, two - it started to turn gray, and three - my wife had never seen me, nor my family, without the mustache... I'm happy [without it]. He also commented on his mustache in a live, in-studio interview with KCRA host Mike TeSelle on June 14, 2008, Spitz commented that he no longer maintains his iconic mustache because it had become "too gray."
He has also reported having high cholesterol and other chronic health issues. "People don't believe that I have high cholesterol, but it's a fact," said Spitz. "I take medication every day because my doctor told me that diet and exercise are not enough to keep my cholesterol down
He also suffers from occasional kidney stones.
Although Spitz has stated that he has no hard feelings towards Phelps, he is unhappy that he was not invited to the Olympics. As a result, Spitz has refused to attend the games. "They voted me one of the top five Olympians of all time. Some of them are dead. But they invited the other ones to go to the Olympics, but not me," he said. "Yes, I am a bit upset about it.
However, on August 14, 2008 Spitz appeared on NBC's Today Show where he clarified his statement and his pride in Michael Phelps:
It’s about time that somebody else takes the throne. And I’m very happy for him. I really, truly am...I was working with a corporate sponsor who elected not to bring their US contingent over to China, and they piled on more work for me here in the United States, which was great. So I wasn't able to get to the Olympics and watch Michael in the first couple of days. And they thought, some of these reporters, that I was supposed to be invited by some entity, and I told them that that wasn't really the case, that doesn't happen that way. And so, I'm sort of disappointed that I wasn't there, but, you know, that interview somehow took a different turn, and I've done hundreds and hundreds of them and I've been true to form about the way I feel about Michael, and he's doing a great job for the United States and inspiring a lot of great performances by the other team members.|||Mark Spitz
Also on August 14, 2008, in an interview aired on Los Angeles KNBC-4's morning news show, Today in L.A., Spitz was quoted saying he does believe that, "Michael Phelps is the greatest Olympic athlete ever.
On August 15, 2008, as part of an interview on NBC, Spitz said that he felt Phelps' performance in the 100 fly in Beijing was "epic". Spitz paid this compliment to Phelps just two hours after his record-tying seventh gold medal during a live joint interview with Bob Costas:
You know, Bob and Michael, I wondered what I was going to say at this monumental time, when it would happen and who I would say it to, and of course I thought I was going to say it to you for some time now. But, it's the word that comes to mind, "epic". What you did tonight was epic, and it was epic for the whole world to see how great you really are. I never thought for one moment that you were out of that race and contention, because I watched you at Athens win the race by similar margins, and 18 months ago at the World's by similar margins. And, you know, that is a tribute to your greatness. And now the whole world knows. We are so proud of you Michael here in America, and we are so proud of you and the way that you handle yourself, and you represent such an inspiration to all the youngsters around the world. You know, you weren't born when I did what I did, and I'm sure that I was a part of your inspiration, and I take that as a full compliment. And they say that you judge one's character by the company you keep, and I'm happy to keep company with you. And you have a tremendous responsibility for all those people that you are going to inspire over the next number of years, and I know that you will wear the crown well. Congratulations, Mike.|||Mark Spitz speaking to Michael Phelps from Detroit, during a live Bob Costas interview on August 15, 2008
During a radio interview in Australia, Spitz was quoted as saying "They don't want to test for everything because there's tremendous pressure from the television networks because they want the television to have athletic competitions with the world record holders there for the finals. They want the medals not to be tainted in their value of accomplishment by winning them, and it's all about ratings and commercial selling of time and about money. And an International Olympic Committee has got their hand in the pockets of the network television people, so there's a tremendous conflict of interest in what they should do and what they're doing.
In August 2008 the L.A. Times reported, that Spitz continued to discuss drug testing and was saying "the IOC has sponsors who demand a good show. Television pays the IOC for the rights to that good show, and its sponsors want that too. Drug news and drug distractions are not a good show. People are not going to tune in to see athletes have their medals taken away from them.
Swimming: Even I Would Have Taken Drugs to Win Those 7 Golds Admits Swim Superman Mark Spitz; TWO LEGENDS ON THE ISSUE THAT STILL HAUNTS THE GAMES
Jan 20, 2001; Byline: Kevin Garside OLYMPIC legend Mark Spitz has admitted he would have resorted to cheating if that was the only way to...
Analysis: Michael Phelps wins bronze in 200-meter freestyle event at Olympics, ending his quest to tie Mark Spitz's record of seven gold medals
Aug 16, 2004; ROBERT SIEGEL All Things Considered (NPR) 08-16-2004 Analysis: Michael Phelps wins bronze in 200-meter freestyle event at...