He was born on this day Febuary 10 1950 in Modesto California to happy Jewish Parents. When he was two years old his family moved to Hawaii, where he learn't how to swim. At 6 years old his family returned to California this time to Sacromento where he competed at his local swimming pool.
At nine he was training with Sherm Chavoor who trained 7 Olympic medalists, his abilty was recognized early. At age 10 he was the holder of 17 national age group records and 1 world record. At 14 his family moved to Santa Clara so he could train with George Haines of the Santa Clara swim club.
At 16 he won his first of 24 National AAU titles, his first was in the 100 metres butterfly. A year later in 1967 he won five gold meadls at the Pan American games in Winnipeg. Holding world records already, he brashly stated he would win six golds at the 1968 Mexico Summer Olympics.
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In the Mexico 1968 summer olympics he won 2 Golds a silver and a bronze. At the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich (West Germany), was back to maintain his bid for the six gold medals.
He did even more, winning seven Olympic gold medals, a feat as of 2007 unequalled by any other Olympic athlete. Whats is even more astounding he set a new world record in each of the seven events (the 100 m freestyle, 200 m freestyle, 100 m butterfly, 200 m butterfly, 4 x 100 m freestyle, 4 x 200 m freestyle and the 4 x 100 m medley).
His accomplishments at Munich were marred by the infamous Palestinian terrorism attack, known as the Munich Massacre, that claimed the lives of 11 Israeli athletes (He had previously spent time in Israel competing in the Maccabiah Games in 1965 and 1969). In the immediate aftermath, security personnel whisked him away from Munich.
At the remarkably young age of 22, He retired from swimming after the Munich Games. His management tried to get him into show business while his name was still hot. In 1973 and 1974, He appeared on such TV series as The Tonight Show, The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour and Emergency! as paramedic Pete Barlow. He was never comnfortable in the lime light behind the cameras and his foray into Hollywood ended.
At age 41, he was offered a million dollars if he succeeded in Qualifying for the Barcelona 1992 Summer Olympics by film maker Bud Greenspan . Filmed by Greenspan's cameras, He failed to beat the qualifying limit, despite the fact his times were nearly as good (and in some cases better) than his medal-winning turns more than a decade earlier.
In 2005, He was chosen to be the flag bearer for the US Delegation to the 17th Maccabiah Games.
Happy Birthday Mark Spitz
In a modern day comparison, there bears a strong resemblance to the premature ending of Mark Spitz's career and Australia's Olympic swimmer Ian Thorpe's recent premature retirement at 24.
After winning a host of gold medals and in 2001 becoming the only person to have won six gold medals in one World Championships, in total, Ian Thorpe after winning eleven World Championship golds, the highest number of any swimmer has recently decided to retire.
It is strongly rumoured that Ian Thorpe may pursue a career in front of the Movie Camera.
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Wikipedia: Maccabiah Games
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US Olympic team: Mark Spitz
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