Olympic History >> Munich 1972 >> Key Moments

Munich 1972 - Key Moments

Mark Spitz: the power of seven

In the Munich pool Mark Spitz achieved the most unbelieveable series of victories, earning the Californian a timeless entry into the Olympic record books. In a matter of seven days, Spitz won seven gold medals while establishing seven world records in seven different events.

After relative failure in Mexico in 1968 (two titles in the relay, a silver and a bronze), Spitz threw himself into a four-year training regime designed to bring him guaranteed victory in Munich. Determined to avenge what he regarded as failure, Spitz subsequently arrived in Munich in top form and was unsure about which events to compete in - the crawl or the butterfly ? Unable to decide, he went on to compete in all his favoured events. His main preoccupation was how to handle the various rounds and semi-finals, and the organisation of his time schedule.

The golden tidal wave

On August 28, as if to symbolise his stated intention, he began his campaign where he left off in Mexico four years earlier - 8th place and last in the 200m butterfly. Driven along by large hands and finely-honed limbs, he romped home in the final a full two seconds ahead of the second-placed competitor, compatriot Gary Hall. Robin Backhaus completed the American victory.

Having already won gold, he climbed out of the water and raised his hands in victory. A few hours later he quite calmly competed in the 4x100m freestyle relay, in the process setting a new world record with the US team by a full two seconds.

The next day, the 200m freestyle saw him compete against compatriot John Naber. But the glory taken from this victory was overshadowed, and almost short-lived. When the medals were being given out, Spitz, who was in joyful mood, lifted his hands to the sky holding his shoes above his head.

The IOC, sensitive to what might be regarded as commercial advertising by athletes, demanded that the swimmer should explain himself. Footage of the event proved his innocence.

And so his medal haul continued. He dominated the 100m butterfly just as he had dominated the previous night. In 54 secs 27/100, he led the Canadian Bruce Robertson by 1.3 secs. An hour later, he participated in the American team victory in the 4x200m relay.

Pride overcomes revenge

After this spectacular demonstration of athleticism, the experts believed that Spitz would relinquish his domination. But unbeknown to them, he had a revenge-driven score to settle, and, was intent on doing it in style.

On September 2, he dominated the king of the swimming events - the 100m freestyle. However, the Californian was not automatically regarded as the favourite, since he was beaten in the first round and in the semi-final by Australian Mike Wenden.

But at the half-way point, it seemed his seven opponents already knew the name of the winner.

The final stages of the race saw the moustachioed Spitz erasing all hope of victory for any of his opponents. Shortly afterwards he ended his amazing string of exploits with inevitable victory in the 4x100m individual medley.

Spitz had proved his point. In Munich, it was merely a question of revenge, albeit dramatic. As soon as the Games were over, Spitz announced his retirement. Eventual glory, absent in his exploits at the Mexico Games, was finally achieved.


Copyright 2012 Agence France-Presse.