#RespectYourElders: In honor of the 2016 Summer Olympic Games beginning in Rio this past weekend, it’s a good time to look back at one of the greatest Olympic champions in U.S. history.
Mark Spitz (born 1950) is a former competitive swimmer and nine-time Olympic champion. He won seven gold medals in the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich — a world record for wins at a single olympics only surpassed by Michael Phelps, who was awarded eight gold medals in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.
Spitz was raised in California and at age nine began training with Sherm Cavoor, who has mentored seven Olympic medal winners. By the time he was 10 years old, Spitz already held a world record and 17 national age-group records.
Spitz participated in his first Olympic Games in 1968 in Mexico City, where he helped the U.S. team win two gold medals. He followed his coach from the Games to train with him at Indiana University, where he received eight individual NCAA titles.
The 1972 Olympic Games in Munich were Spitz’s time to shine — he set a new world record in each of the seven swimming events. Afterward, he retired from competition at just 22 years old. Impressively, he almost qualified for the 1992 Summer Olympics at age 41 in an attempted later life comeback.
Spitz is one of only five Olympians to win nine or more career gold medals. Currently a motivational speaker, Spitz continues to receive recognition as one of the greatest U.S. Olympians of all time — and for his signature mustache.