When I was kid, I was Little Melvin. My dad was Big Melvin. I was a little swimmer, but I had big dreams, and they were entirely fueled by one man, Mark Spitz. Like millions of kids around the world, I woke up daily to see that same poster of Mark hanging on my wall listing his seven Olympic gold medals and seven world records from the 1972 Olympic Games.
For young swimmers who may not know Mark Spitz, he competed in two Olympic games winning nine gold medals, a silver and bronze. Between 1968 and 1972 he broke 35 world records. Winning seven gold medals in 1972 etched his name in the history books as the greatest Olympian ever, a crown Mark wore for 36 years, until Michael Phelps‘ won eight gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
I finally met my hero when I was 18, and after the Olympics I even traveled with Mark on appearances or just saw him at all the big events. Mark’s fun, a seasoned storyteller, and I’ve always thought it’d be great if the Olympic world could just drop in on his conversations. Putting it another way, if you had a long road trip and you can pick any icon out of history to ride shotgun, Mark’s you’re guy.
I have four hours with Mark captured. This is only the first chapter, which is about 35 minutes. We meander, but when you’re talking to Mark the side stories are where all of the detail and color become fully saturated. Mark covers:
- his start, how and why he chose swimming
- what fueled him in childhood to win blue ribbons
- his swimming hero
- his secret warm-up, the same warm-up he used for years because it signaled success
- his first world record
- how he trained butterfly (which went against the grain of the day, which was grinding hard yardage)
- and who he feared, and Mark feared several competitors for legitimate reasons
Between now and the U.S. Olympic Trials, I’ll rollout these episodes. I absolutely love Mark. Some of my best swimming memories come from him, outside of the pool, just talking. I hope you enjoy it…
See Mark’s version of the “Ledecky Challenge” on his Instagram where he does it doing butterfly:
Follow Gold Medal Mel on Instagram here.
This is a Gold Medal Media production presented by SwimOutlet.com. Host Gold Medal Mel Stewart is a 3-time Olympic medalist and the co-founder of SwimSwam.com, a Swimming News website.
Opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the interviewed guests do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs, and viewpoints of the hosts, SwimSwam Partners, LLC and/or SwimSwam advertising partners.