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Spitz, Mark

Swimming - 1990

Mark Spitz is the greatest swimmer in history and holder of the most extraordinary achievement of the modern Olympic Games: winning seven gold medal victories in one Olympiad. And, each of the gold medals was won while setting a World record.

Spitz won 11 Olympic medals over two Olympic Games but always will be best remembered for his remarkable seven gold medals at the 1972 Games. That summer in Munich, Spitz set four individual World records: 100-Meter (51.22), 200-Meter Freestyle (1:52.78), 100-Meter (54.27), and 200-Meter Butterfly (2:00.70). He also participated in three relay event World records: 4 x 100 Freestyle (3:26.42), 4 x 200 Freestyle (7:35.78), and 4 x 100 Medley (3:48.16). He swam the third leg of the 200 Freestyle and 100 Medley, and the last leg of the 100 Freestyle.

His final victory came only hours before Palestinian terrorists took hostage and eventually murdered 11 Israeli athletes in the Munich Olympic Village. Spitz was unceremoniously whisked out of the country under heavy security guard.

Four years earlier, in 1968, Spitz won four Olympic medals at the Mexico Games: golds in two relay events—4 x 100 (3:31.7) and 200 (7:52.3), a silver in the 100-Meter Butterfly (56.4), and a bronze in the 100-Meter Freestyle (53.0). Mark swam the final leg of the World record–setting 4 x 100 event and swam third position on the 4 x 200 team.

Between 1965 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 World Swimmer of the Year in 1967, 1971,
and 1972. In 1971, Spitz became the first Jewish recipient of the James E. Sullivan Award, given annually to the Amateur Athlete of the Year. In bicentennial year 2000, Sports Illustrated named Spitz No. 33 on its list of the ‘Top 100 Athletes of the 20th Century’.

The 1965 Maccabiah Games was Mark’s first international competition, and he returned to Israel in 1969, following the Mexico Olympics, to again compete in the Maccabiah. In all, Spitz won 10 Maccabiah gold medals.

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