Mark Spitz: Seven ways to survive the Olympic Games

Spitz, now 71, won seven gold medals in a single Games while dominating the Munich pool in 1972, a result that surpassed that of Michael Phelps in 2008.

This was after Spitz backed to win six gold medals in Mexico City in 1968, only to win two gold medals, both in the relay – a disappointment that he said motivated him to retire four years later. achieve their record success.

Here, the former swimmer from the United States recounts the lessons he learned during his Olympic career.

1. Be prepared, motivated, and happy

Many people who go to the Olympics have learned this all their lives. I once calculated that during my 13 or 14 years of work to Munich, I swam about 26,000 miles – enough to go around the entire planet from the equator.

But then, as well as 200,000 other athletes who were swimming at the time, did the same. So what made me different? Maybe it was a little lucky. Maybe it was the program I was in. Maybe it was my “failure” in 1968 that made me want to do better.

Michael Wenden swims in Australia in the 100-meter dash at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. Spitz, in seventh row, finished third.

2. Life in the Olympic Village

I think the village is fantastic, but many of the big athletes don’t even stay there.

After the competition, maybe they’ll show up in the village – after you’ve won the gold medal.

3. Beware of confusion

There is a great atmosphere in the village, which is good for making friends. But you’re all there to do.

Sometimes I felt that the village was not for me, could be very distracting. This was of course in 1968, when the swimming events were held in the second week. I was young and lost some of my focus, I went into trading and did all the other work.

Now that’s something else. Athletes, regardless of the time of their race, are trained to keep up.

Spitz competes in botany at the 1972 Summer Olympics.

4. If you fail at first …

I often think of Doug Russell. She swam slowly in my world record in the 100m butterfly, but still won gold; I only got silver. But his victory meant he had to swim in the swimming relay, not me. So, my silver probably cost me two gold coins.

In my final race, the 200-meter butterfly, I could have gone two seconds slower and won gold than my best personal best, but I was eight seconds slower and finished last. The 200 ‘flight was my first race in Munich and I was confident it would never happen again.

They called me a failure, and that struck me. So a bad experience can inspire someone to succeed.

Spitz competes in the 1982 World Swimming Championships.

5. A little guidance doesn’t hurt …

My Russian competitors in Munich had never seen me swim in person, and they were so kind that they let me in on one of their sessions.

I knew they were taking pictures of me, so I started a stupid shot that had nothing to do with anything. They asked if I always swam that way and I said yes.

Then they asked if my hair had weakened me. I had planned to shave it that night, but I found myself taking that water out of my mouth and I was able to lower my face much and make my body simpler. It probably slowed me down by hundreds of seconds per second, but I won in seconds – so it didn’t matter.

Anyway, after that, I decided to keep the hair and it became an attractive brand!

Sptiz will be awarded with its 200-meter butterfly gold medal in Munich.

6. Be realistic

About 10,000 athletes go to the Summer Games and there are about 250 competitions.

If you include all team events, about 1,000 medals will be awarded. So that means only 10% of competing athletes are “successful”.

For many, just getting to the Games is an achievement, but that’s only about 15% who are on the hardware hunt. There is a lot of frustration.


7. If you go to the pulpit, make the most of the moment …

Consider everything, for it will never be repeated; at no other point in your life will anyone put you on such a pulpit and they will not play your national anthem.

In the next life, your success will not be measured in the same way, because there will always be someone who has a better deal, a bigger deal, and more money to make.

So, if you are lucky enough to get into such people, it will only be a moment and then everything else will continue. You have to learn to live with it. | Mark Spitz: Seven ways to survive the Olympic Games


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