Considered the Greatest Olympic athlete of all-time, synonymous with excellence and one of the most recognized faces in the world
Mark Spitz, the most famed athlete of all-time, is synonymous with excellence. His powerful swimming career launched him into celebrity, and gained him fans world-wide. During his career, Mark’s unparalleled abilities set him apart from the competition.
Mark 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 WaikikiBeach. When Mark was just six years old, he began to compete at his local swim club. A few years later at the tender age of nine, he trained at Arden Hills Swim Club in Sacramento with Sherm Chavoor, the swimming coach who mentored him and six other Olympic medal winners. 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.
In the 1968 Olympic Games, Mark won two team gold medals in the 4 x 100-eter freestyle and the 4 x 200-meter freestyle relay. After the Olympic Games, Spitz enrolled in IndianaUniversity and trained with legendary coach Doc Counsilman, who was also his coach previously in Mexico City. While attending IU, Spitz won 8 individual NCAA titles. Then, in 1971, he won the James E. Sullivan Award as the top amateur athlete in the United States. Following his various successes, Spitz was nicknamed “Mark the Shark” by his teammates.
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. 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. His seven gold medal win in one Olympic competition was only surpassed by Michael Phelps at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
In 1999, Spitz was ranked number 33 on ESPN’s “SportsCentury 50 Greatest Athletes,” and was the only aquatic athlete to make the list. His other achievements include inductions into the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, the United States Olympic Hall of Fame, San Jose Sports Hall of Fame, National Jewish Museum Sports Hall of Fame, Long Beach City College Hall of Fame, and Indiana University Athletics Hall of Fame.
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.
After his impressive swimming career, Spitz went on to have an equally impressive career out of the pool. His biography, The Extraordinary Life of An Olympic Champion, gives insight into Mark’s remarkable journey. In 1972, soon after his return to the U.S., Spitz landed several endorsement deals. He has executed endorsements for Xerox, Kodak, Bausch & Lomb, John Hancock Financial Services, General Motors, General Mills, Swatch, and many others.
He later started a successful real-estate company in Beverly Hills. Mark is also a world-renown public speaker, and gives motivational speeches at various events. Mark will continue to be a very hot commodity as long as there is an Olympic Games somewhere in the world, or the desire by a group to hear from one of the greatest living legends of all-time in sports.
A devoted father and husband, legendary athlete, highly-respected motivational speaker and entrepreneur, Mark Spitz encompasses talent and enthusiasm in everything he does.