Nine quadreniums ago, swimmer Mark Spitz accomplished what no other Olympian had ever achieved: Seven races. Seven gold medals. Seven world records.
That week-long performance at the 1972 Olympics in Munich became legendary, and the man Mark Spitz, a living legend.
Those of us who remember and were able to witness this extraordinary event knew that the world of swimming and sport had a new champion — and, perhaps, someone who could break through to the mainstream media of the day.
Then, before Spitz could even attend his own news conference, tragedy took place with the Israeli hostage crisis. Spitz was quickly flown back to Los Angeles via London where life began beyond the pool for him. For well over three decades, if you asked just about anyone if they could name a famous swimmer, whether they were a fan or not, they'd answer, "Mark Spitz."
But what has happened to Mark Spitz, the swimmer, the man, the legend?
Prior to Munich, the swimming world certainly thought they knew who Spitz was. He had been coached by three of the most famous coaches of the era: Sherm Chavoor at Arden Hills; George Haines at Santa Clara and James "Doc" Councilman at Indiana University. Breaking a world record while in high school contributed to his notoriety.
Going into the '68 Olympic Games in Mexico City, expectations were high for Spitz. However, his two relay golds and individual silver in the 100 Fly and bronze in the 100 Free failed to live up to the hype or the hopeful goals that Spitz had for himself.
Four years of NCAA decorated swimming for Doc and supportive teammates at both Indiana and the '72 team made for a successful environment for Spitz to challenge the seven events in Munich that he qualified for at the trials in Long Beach, Calif.
7 Races. 7 Gold Medals. 7 World Records. The accomplishment deserves repeating, especially in light of recent events.
This biography of Mark Spitz is long overdue.
The success of this book in the swell leading up to this summer's Games in Beijing will be determined by those who wish to learn more about the man who is a legend. A devoted family man, successful businessman and outspoken critic of many issues in the world of swimming.
The book is well-researched and is filled with quotes and statements from a "who's who" in the greater aquatic and sporting world. Foster has told the story of Mark Spitz — a most interesting, complex and enigmatic individual — in a straight-forward and compelling narrative.