Mark Spitz… A Champion’s Grace

“They say a person can be judged by those he associates with. I am privileged to be associated with you, and I am happy to give up my title to you… You truly are the greatest Olympic Athlete.” …Mark Spitz to Michael Phelps after Phelps’ 8th Medal

Phelps ties Mark Spitz for 7-Gold Medals.

Mark Spitz Shows Michael Phelps a Champion’s Grace

Mark Spitz – July 2008… throwing out the first ball & August 2008 In Beijing

Mark Spitz, whose 1972 record of seven golds in one Olympics was broken by Michael Phelps in Beijing, has only praise and admiration for the younger swimmer.

By, Steve Springer

August 18, 2008

As Michael Phelps dived into his bid to surpass the Olympic standards set by Mark Spitz, the 58-year-old Spitz expressed bitterness he had not been invited to watch the historic swimming performance in person in Beijing, according to a French wire service.
But when Spitz, in Detroit to watch one of his sons in a basketball tournament, finally faced Phelps via an NBC split screen, he was gracious and charming, expressing only praise and admiration for the 23-year-old Phelps, who was poised to win his eighth gold medal of the 2008 Games, breaking a Spitz mark that had stood for 36 years. Days earlier, Phelps had swum past another Spitz record, nine career golds, an achievement Spitz had shared with three others.

"I wondered what I was going to say at this monumental time," Spitz told Phelps. "The word that comes to mind: epic. What you did was epic."

remarks printed earlier by Agence France-Presse and reprinted in the Detroit Free Press, Spitz had struck a very different tone in addressing his absence from Beijing.
"I never got invited," Spitz said. "You don’t go to the Olympics just to say, ‘I am going to go.’ Especially because of who I am. I am going to sit there and watch Michael Phelps break my record anonymously? That’s almost demeaning to me. It is not almost — it is.
"They voted me one of the top five Olympians [of] all time. Some are dead. But they invited the other ones to go to the Olympics, but not me. Yes, I am a bit upset about it."
In his NBC remarks, Spitz said he had decided four years ago, when Phelps won six gold medals at the Athens Olympics, that Phelps had the potential to go further.
"Now the whole world knows," Spitz said. "We are so proud of you here, Michael, in America and the way you’ve handled yourself. . . . You represent such an inspiration to youngsters around the world. You have a tremendous responsibility for all those people you are going to inspire over the next number of years. I know that you will wear the crown well.
"You know, you weren’t born when I did what I did. I’m sure I was a part of your inspiration, and I take that as a full compliment. They say you judge one’s character by the company that you keep, and I’m happy to keep company with you."
Even if not in person.
Host Bob Costas couldn’t resist the obvious. If Spitz and Phelps, both in their prime, were to race, who would win? Spitz took the diplomatic way out.
"I certainly would know what made him tick," he said, "and how to beat him, and he would certainly know the same about me, so I would have to say, we would probably tie."
In the Olympic record book, Phelps has forever broken the tie with Spitz. The aftermaths of their memorable Olympics also figure to be very different. Although Phelps’ name is indelibly stamped on these Games, the afterglow expected to last indefinitely, it wasn’t that way in 1972. Even as the cheers for Spitz’s performance reverberated around Munich, they were drowned out by gunfire. The slaying of 11 Israeli athletes by Palestinian terrorists the day after Spitz’s final race overshadowed his achievement. Because he was Jewish, Spitz was whisked out of Munich and flown home.
Tragedy had pushed him off the world stage.
——
The telecast of Phelps’ record-breaking eighth gold-medal triumph drew 31.1 million viewers, the most for the network for any type of Saturday night programming since 31.4 million tuned in for a 1990 episode of "Empty Nest." The total of 191 million viewers for the first nine days of the Games surpasses the total for the full 17 days of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City (187 million) and the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney (185 million).

“If you fail to prepare, you’re prepared to fail.” …Mark Spitz

Seventh gold medal during a live joint interview with Bob Costas:

You know, Bob and Michael, I wondered what I was going to say at this monumental time, when it would happen and who I would say it to, and of course I thought I was going to say it to you for some time now. But, it’s the word that comes to mind, "epic". What you did tonight was epic, and it was epic for the whole world to see how great you really are. I never thought for one moment that you were out of that race and contention, because I watched you at Athens win the race by similar margins, and 18 months ago at the World’s by similar margins. And, you know, that is a tribute to your greatness. And now the whole world knows. We are so proud of you Michael here in America, and we are so proud of you and the way that you handle yourself, and you represent such an inspiration to all the youngsters around the world. You know, you weren’t born when I did what I did, and I’m sure that I was a part of your inspiration, and I take that as a full compliment. And they say that you judge one’s character by the company you keep, and I’m happy to keep company with you. And you have a tremendous responsibility for all those people that you are going to inspire over the next number of years, and I know that you will wear the crown well. Congratulations, Mike.

—Mark Spitz speaking to Michael Phelps from Detroit, during a live Bob Costas interview on August 15, 2008

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About Ask Marion

I am a babyboomer and empty nester who savors every moment of my past and believes that it is the responsibility of each of us in my generation and Americans in general to make sure that America is as good or even a better place for future generations as it was for us. So far... we haven't done very well!! Favorite Quotes: "The first 50 years are to build and acquire; the second 50 are to leave your legacy"; "Do something that scares you every day!"; "The journey in between what you once were and who you are becoming is where the dance of life really takes place".
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