Mark Spitz won seven gold medals in one of the greatest Olympic performances of all time at the Munich games of 1972. His stunning victories, however, were eclipsed by a terrorist attack at the Olympic village (chronicled tomorrow in The Century In The Post). After a blitz of television appearances and product endorsements, Spitz's celebrity faded as his records fell in subsequent games. Spitz recently served as an advisor on a reform commission set up in the wake of the Salt Lake City Olympic bribery scandal and is an outspoken proponent of drug testing for athletes. An excerpt from The Post of Sept. 5, 1972:
Los Angeles Times
MUNICH, Sept. 4 --
He had lived with it four years. He had proven himself again and again since then, but Mark Spitz had failed to do what was expected in the 1968 Olympic Games at Mexico City. The memory of that had splashed around the pools of the world with him for four agonizing years.
He was 18 then, a youngster from Carmichael, Calif., who had been pushed and driven by his father. He had set two world records and people were saying he would win up to six gold medals in Mexico He won two -- both in relays -- and afterward he lowered his eyes from reporters and said he felt "downright depressed."
Later, he was more candid.
"I know some people say I choked," he said. "I guess when you're champion and you lose, well, it's got to be an upset."
There were no upsets at the Olympic Schwimmhalle here in Munich. The trial of Mark Spitz is over. And now, if one wants to call him the greatest swimmer in history, he is no longer likely to hear, "Ah, but how about Mexico City...?"
Spitz has won seven gold medals. Seven events, seven golds, seven world records. No other man or woman who ever participated in the modern Olympic Games came close.
Nedo Nadi, the Italian fencing master, won five golds at Antwerp in 1920. Jesse Owens, the great American sprinter, won four at Berlin in 1936. Fanny Blankers-Koen, the Dutch housewife, won four at London in 1948. Don Schollander, the greatest swimmer before Spitz came along and in whose shadow Spitz has long walked, won four at Tokyo in 1964.
The string started just a week ago. There were two gold medals that night. One came in a relay -- the 400-meter freestyle. But the other came in the 200-meter butterfly. It didn't matter that the world record he broke that night was his -- one he had set during the Olympic trials in Chicago less than a month ago. The site -- and the occasion -- were the important things.
The others came in due course: the 100-meter freestyle, the 200-meter freestyle, the 100-meter butterfly, the 800-meter freestyle relay -- and today the 400-meter medley relay.
Spitz swam the butterfly leg today, the third leg. He started with a slight edge over his East German opponent -- .13 seconds -- but he broke the race open. He swam his 100 meters, unofficially, in 54.28 seconds, one-hundredth of a second faster than the world record he had set earlier at that distance. And that did it. Jerry Heidenreich of Dallas cruised home on the last leg four seconds ahead of the East German.
That was No. 7.
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