With the Sochi Olympics in full swing, it’s the perfect time to see what a former Olympic great has been up to. No, not Michael Phelps, but rather, the guy who preceded him.
That’s right -- I’m talkin’ about Mark Spitz, the mustachioed swimmer also known as Mark the Shark. He set 33 world records and was inducted into six halls of fame. But he’s best known as the first athlete to win seven gold medals in one Olympics (Munich, 1972).
Spitz turned 64 on Feb. 10, and he’s still wowing crowds ... as a motivational speaker. From business groups to school kids, he shares his thoughts on winning. Indeed, one of his speeches helps the audience find “the Olympic champion within everyone.”
Spitz didn’t dive into public speaking right after the ’72 Games, though. He’s been a TV commentator for several Olympics, but it was the flood of endorsement offers that really kept him busy for a while. He hooked up with Xerox, Kodak, General Motors, Swatch and more, including Major Pool Equipment’s Spartan Pool Division! Pool News (as we were known then) reported that Spitz took the job because “I think it’s the best pool you can buy for the money. ... Spartan has made it possible to have a pool for the price of a second car.”
Fast forward to 2003, and we find Spitz joining the board of directors at Novations, maker of aquatic exercise devices. “He is recognized worldwide as the foremost authority in the swimming field,” Novations President Leo Riera told PSN. “I think people in our generation look up to him for that.”
Among the many honors Spitz has received were the Sullivan Award as the nation’s top amateur athlete (1971) and World Swimmer of the Year (1969-71). Then there are those hefty titles that Sports Illustrated bestowed in 2000: “Athlete of the Century” in water sports and one of six “Greatest Olympians.”
Back in civilian life, Spitz married Suzy Weiner in 1973, settled in Los Angeles and raised sons Matthew and Justin. He also started a successful real estate firm in Beverly Hills. Favorite pastimes include sailing, skiing and collecting art.
I’ll leave you with these words from Spitz’s dad, who often told his young son: “Swimming isn’t everything; winning is.” He certainly took those words to heart.