Doc Counsilman: Making Waves

Mark Spitz

Mark SpitzMark Spitz has won more gold medals in a single Olympics than any athlete in Olympic history. Spitz was the oldest of three children and was born on February 10, 1950. His parents, Lenore and Arnold Spitz, introduced him to swimming as soon as he could walk. He first gained notoriety at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, coming home with two gold, one silver and one bronze medal. However, four years later at the 1972 Olympics in Munich, West Germany, he won more gold medals in a single Olympiad than any athlete to precede or follow him. Spitz won seven gold medals in 1972 in the individual 100-meter and 200-meter freestyle races and the 100-meter and 200-meter butterfly races, setting a new world record in each. He was also a member of the three winning medley relay teams, each of which set a world record.

After the 1968 Olympics, Spitz decided to leave the west coast and swim for legendary swim coach, James “Doc” Counsilman at Indiana University. Mark Spitz is Indiana's most well known and most successful swimmer. He holds eight individual NCAA titles and contributed to four school NCAA Championships. He won more NCAA individual championships in 1969 than any other swimmer or diver ever has. His three titles that year tie with 23 other athletes, including Charlie Hickcox and Gary Hall, as the highest number of individual wins in one season. In 1969, Spitz stood highest on the awards stand for the 200 freestyle, 500 freestyle, and 100 butterfly. By 1971 he owned the butterfly, successfully defending his 100 title and winning the 200 for the first time. At his final NCAA Championship, he defended his 100 and 200 butterfly titles. By the spring of 1972. Spitz had set 23 world swimming records and 35 United States records.

Spitz won his first gold medal in the 200 meter butterfly in two minutes and seven-tenths of a second for a world record at the Munich Olympic Games on August 28, 1972. That same night, he won a second gold medal when his team established a world record for the 400 meter free-style relay The following day, he won his third gold medal. Again, he established a world record when he swam the 200 meter free-style in one minute and 52.78 seconds.

He swam the 100 meter butterfly in 54.27 seconds to earn a world record and a gold medal on September 1. He then went on to anchor the United States 800 meter free-style relay team to victory for another gold medal. He won the 100 meter free-style in 51.22 seconds and swam the butterfly leg on the victorious United States team in the 400 meter medley relay for his seventh gold medal on September 3. He set another International Swimming Hall of Fame (1977) world record with his seven gold medals when he surpassed the record held by Italian fencer Nedo Nadi, who had won five Olympic gold medals in 1920.

After the '72 Olympics, Spitz made movies and commercials and went into business, He lives in California with wife Suzy, and his son. He was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1977 and the Indiana University Hall of Fame in 1982.

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Updated August 25, 2003
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