At the 1972 Olympics in Munich, he not only became the first athlete to win seven gold medals at one Olympiad, but he set new world records in all seven events. Widely considered to be the fastest swimmer of all time at the peak of his career, he dominated the sport for six years and was World Swimmer of the Year in 1969, 1971 and 1972.
Mark Spitz dominates the Olympic record books. At the 1972 Olympics in Munich, he not only became the first athlete to win seven gold medals at one Olympiad, but he set new world records in all seven events. Widely considered to be the fastest swimmer of all time at the peak of his career, he dominated the sport for six years and was World Swimmer of the Year in 1969, 1971 and 1972.
Spitz was taught to swim by his father as a two-year-old and by ten he had already made a major impact, holding 17 national age-group records, along with one world record, and he was named the world’s best 10-and-under swimmer. By the time he was 16, he won the 100 metres butterfly at the national AAU championships - the first of his 24 AAU titles.
The following year, in 1967, Spitz won five gold medals at the Pan-American Games in Winnipeg and, with 10 world records already behind him, he was expected to secure several individual gold medals at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. However he was only able to win two team gold medals in the 4 x 100 metres and 4 x 200 metres freestyle relays and two individual medals - a silver in the 100 metres butterfly and bronze in the 100 metres freestyle.
Butterfly was the American’s favourite stroke and the 100 metres butterfly was his favourite event. Yet he was an all-round genius in the pool and his biggest impact in the sport was achieved during the 1972 Munich Olympics in seven different events. Over a period of eight days, Mark Spitz competed in seven events, won all seven and set a world record in every one. Spitz is the only person to win seven gold medals at one Olympics and he is one of only four athletes to earn nine career gold medals.
He won four individual events at the Munich Olympics, the 100 metres and 200 metres freestyle and the 100 metres and 200 metres butterfly, and he was a key figure, as the United States took gold in three relay races.
His triumph in Munich in 1972 more than made amends for his relative disappointment in Mexico City and Spitz returned to the United States to a hero’s welcome. In 1999 he was named Athlete of the Century in water sports and he was also voted one of the six best Olympians of the Century by Sports Illustrated magazine. Since his retirement, Spitz has been involved with film and television and does promotional work for the United States Olympic Committee.