Today there is Michael Phelps, who is the all-time record holder of gold medals at the Olympics for swimming. In fact, he is the most decorated athlete in Olympic history, with 23 gold medals and 28 medals in total. But, if it wasn’t for Mark Spitz, perhaps Michael Phelps wouldn’t have been as successful as he has been. Mark Spitz was the trailblazer for competitive swimming, and the international recognition he received for his amazing swimming ability has inspired thousands of swimmers across the world. Here is everything you wanted to know about the Olympic swimmer, Mark “the Shark” Spitz.
He has a thing for gold
At the 1972 Olympic games in Munich, Spitz managed to win a world record seven gold medals. He won them all for the various swimming disciplines he was competing in, including; 100-meter freestyle, 100-meter butterfly, 4 x 100-meter freestyle relay, and 4 x 200-meter freestyle relay. Not only was winning seven Olympic gold medals in one summer unheard of, but he also broke the world record time in each of the seven events he won gold in. A truly remarkable achievement. This was only beaten in 2008 when fellow American, Michael Phelps, won eight gold medals at the Beijing Olympic games in 2008, although he didn’t manage to break the world record time in all of the events he competed in.
He was a trendsetter
Spitz had a rather iconic look when he was competing at the height of his powers. He had a bushy mustache that was fairly common at the time, but not amongst swimmers. A Russian coach approach Spitz regarding his famous mustache and asked why he would wear this thing on his face. Spitz told the coach that it didn’t slow him down like they thought it did, and it actually helped to divert the water away from his mouth. Needless to say, following his seven-medal haul at the Olympics, all Russian swimmers had mustaches the following year. His famous mustache was actually grown out of spite. One of his college coaches told him he couldn’t grow one, so he spent the next four months carefully harvesting the bushy face accessory in a bid to prove his coach wrong.
He retired early
Many of us dream of retiring early, and we hope we can get to around 50 years old before hanging up our suit and tie. Sadly that is likely to just be a pipe dream for the vast majority of us. Not so much for Spitz though, who was able to retire from swimming at the tender age of 22. Not bad going if you ask us. A poster emerged of Spitz wearing just a swimsuit and his seven gold medals went on to be one of the hottest pin-up images if the time. This exposure led to him featuring in several TV projects, including appearing in comedy sketch shows. Mainly, he worked in television as a sports broadcaster but decided that wasn’t for him. Despite his lack of enthusiasm for sports commentary, he received critical acclaim in 2006 for his narration of the Hungarian documentary Freedom’s Fury. It was a production that focused on the battle of two water polo teams, Hungary and the Soviet Union during the revolution of 1956.
That was Mark Spitz, some of his accomplishments and some of the things you might never have known about him. Although you may be saddened to know the mustache is no more, he got rid of it because it became too gray and his wife had never seen his face before.