Olympic Icon Mark Spitz Shares Wisdom Ahead of the 2021 Tokyo Games

Gold Medal Minute presented by SwimOutlet.comWhen 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…

Follow Mark Spitz on Instagram here

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.

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Sam B
7 months ago

epic. The mention of Gary Hall, twice, made it in install classic. Probably a cliche but every word that comes out of his mouth is gold

cynthia curran
Reply to  Sam B
7 months ago

Mark Spitz almost became a demist. After won the 7 golds he just went into business. Gary Hall was an ophthalmologist in the greater Phoenix area. Retired, Hall and became had of the race club technique school in Florida and San Diego. Spitz married young and had two sons. He probably is a grandfather.

cynthia curran
Reply to  Sam B
7 months ago

Spitz is a funny guy and was on one of those variety shows playing a Dentist.

Reply to  Sam B
7 months ago

One time, between 1992 and 1995, I was doing laps at the UCLA LCM pool, and Mark Spitz was in my lane, kind of working out. He was between 42 and 45 years old at the time, 19 years older than me, but still pretty fast. He wasn’t taking it too seriously, taking long pauses between sets and swimming down to the bottom of the pool in the deep end like he was a kid. I remember Counsilman saying that Gary Hall would kill himself workout after workout, every second he was in the pool, whereas Spitz would ease up a lot from time to time. Kind of like how Dara Torres’ teammates from the mid-80s would describe her workout… Read more »

The Importer AND Exporter
Reply to  Gold Medal Mel Stewart
6 months ago

Hoping my kids’ coach listens!

7 months ago

In the race videos you can see on Youtube it is fascinating to see the massive changes in technique in Spitz’s races. Forget the no under waters, pull up the videos from Munich and look at the starts and turns. I’d love to hear what he says how the change in technique would have on his times etc

Reply to  ZH
6 months ago

i have an old book of his on learn to swim. In it he discusses working with the Olympic trials pool guy to modify blocks so he could do a grab start. He was an innovator at the time with this and a difference between 1968 and 1972. Also started doing pike starts vs. flat. Great to watch the innovators through the years.

Mark Usher
7 months ago

A terrific interview. I’m three years younger than Spitz, and Don Schollander was also my first swimming hero after watching him swim in Tokyo.
Got to see Spitz swim in college when IU came to Purdue for a dual meet. It was the only time I ever remember having a SRO crowd at a Purdue swim meet, with folks lined up around the block to get in.

Reply to  Mark Usher
6 months ago

Your description reminds me of when i went to see Stanford swim at Michigan when Janet Evans was swimming. Couldn’t get in the building. I believe Spitz held the old Ohio State pool record in the 200 fly until they tore it down in about 2006 or so. And i think a Michigan swimmer took down his 200 fly pool record at Michigan State only within the last 10-15 years (I don’t think it was Malchow).

Michael Mooney
6 months ago

How ⏩ Fast Can you do the Fly today???

Tim Musch
6 months ago

I swam in the 400 meter free held at the San Leandro Relays in 1967. Mark broke the world record again at the San Leandro Relays in 1968. It was done both times at Chabot College in Hayward, CA. My coach Bob During and coach George Haines were really good friends and George always brought his swimmers to the San Leandro Relays.

About Gold Medal Mel Stewart

Gold Medal Mel Stewart

MEL STEWART Jr., aka Gold Medal Mel, won three Olympic medals at the 1992 Olympic Games. Mel's best event was the 200 butterfly. He is a former World, American, and NCAA Record holder in the 200 butterfly. As a writer/producer and sports columnist, Mel has contributed to Yahoo Sports, Universal Sports, …

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