SWIMMING CHAMPION MARK SPITZ SEPTEMBER 4, 1972

August 03, 1997

His splendid black mustache--a reminder to all those
meticulously shorn and shaved adversaries in the pool that Mark
Spitz didn't have to sacrifice fashion to be the best--is long
gone. "I tried growing it back, but it was so gray, it looked
ridiculous," says Spitz, chuckling. That's not the only sign
that the golden boy of the 1972 Munich Olympics is now 47. Spitz
is 20 pounds heavier than in his prime. He has two screws in his
left leg (from a skiing accident), and his back is arthritic.
But 25 years ago Spitz was perfect. Seven races. Seven gold
medals. Seven world records. No one has dominated an Olympics
the way he did that summer. Add the four medals Spitz won at the
Mexico City Games four years earlier, and he shares with Matt
Biondi the record for career Olympic swimming medals.

Retiring after the '72 Games, Spitz became the first athlete to
make a huge post-Olympic splash with corporate America. His
endorsement contracts were estimated to be worth $5 million. He
appeared on television specials with Bob Hope, Bill Cosby and
Sonny and Cher. A poster of the mustachioed, rakishly handsome
Spitz, posing in just his red-white-and-blue swimsuit and seven
gold medals, became the most popular-selling poster of a sports
figure. "I'm a commodity, an endorser," Spitz said then. The
sentiment was typical of his blunt and often brazen honesty. In
'83 Spitz called the National Sports Festival a "joke" and "an
exercise in futility." Jay Bernstein, Spitz's press agent
following the '72 Games, once said, "Mark hasn't learned the art
of talking and saying nothing."

Today Spitz lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Suzy (who
appeared with him on his third and final SI cover the week of
their 1973 marriage), and their sons, Matthew, 15, and Justin,
5. He still follows a hectic, eclectic schedule, as he did in
Munich, investing in real estate, serving as spokesman for
SmarTalk Teleservices, a phone card company, and giving
motivational speeches. The waterproof Mark Spitz model Swatch
watch was the best seller of the company's recent Centennial
Olympic line.

After failing in his much-publicized attempt to make a comeback
and qualify for the '92 Olympics in the 100-meter butterfly,
Spitz stopped swimming for three months. He is now back in the
pool, working out with the UCLA masters swim team. "I squeak,
rattle and roll," he says. But the biggest difference between
the mature Spitz and his brash younger self lies in his relaxed
enjoyment of the sport. "I have a whole different mission now,"
says Spitz. "I enjoy the camaraderie."

--MERRELL NODEN

COLOR PHOTO: HEINZ KLUETMEIER [Cover of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED featuring Mark Spitz]

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)