Catching up with Mark Spitz
Mark Spitz is a useful guy to have around the house. So says his wife of 35 years, Suzy, who never has to nag him to do anything, whether it's fixing the stereo or building a whole closet of shelves. "He's an incredible handyman," she said. "He doesn't even have to read the instructions."
It's not entirely surprising that the young man with brazen self-assurance -- or with what Spitz said some people called "downright arrogance" -- is still as confident and as concerned with perfection at age 57 as he was when he won seven gold medals at the 1972 Olympics in Munich and two gold medals, a silver and a bronze four years earlier in Mexico City.
In addition to helping out around the house ("unless it's in the kitchen," said Suzy), Spitz captivates audiences of as few as 35 to as many as 23,000 during his motivational speaking stops, which have taken him to Japan, China, Hong Kong and most of Europe since he began in 1973. "My middle name is 'Mileage Plus,'" he joked.
Spitz became a stockbroker in 2002 and has since moved into private equity. He is now also dabbling in the "water business," as he calls it, and is in negotiations to build a water-bottling facility on aquifer-rich land that he and a business partner own. He tries to swim three times a week with a master's swimming program at UCLA, though he doesn't make the earliest sessions. "I've never been a morning person," he said.
He waxes eloquent on the improvements in supplemental strength training ("I would basically pick up a bunch of dumbbells"), professionalism among today's Olympic athletes ("Companies help train them to be spokespeople") and steroids in sports ("Seems a lot of these athletes are just ahead of what's being tested for").
If he's not jetting across the globe, Spitz is driving from his family's home in Los Angeles to see his son Matt, 26, play in a golf tournament (Matt is trying to qualify for a professional tour), or his son Justin, 16, play basketball. He likes to tell the story about how he used to share carpool duties with another family who had a son Matt's age and a younger daughter. When the little girl's teacher showed pictures of famous Olympians during class one year, her hand shot in the air to identify Mark Spitz. When prompted by her teacher to explain who he was, she replied matter-of-factly, "He drives my brother's carpool."
Spitz may have been just another dad when he was shuttling kids around L.A., but his name has surfaced frequently over the last four years as another young hot-shot swimmer, Michael Phelps, has threatened to break Spitz's record of seven gold medals in a single Olympics. Other than to pose for an odd picture with Phelps, Spitz doesn't have much interaction with the superstar. "He's not sitting down with me asking for advice," he said.
And what of the iconic moustache Spitz sported since 1972? On Valentine's Day in 1988, after talking about shaving it off for a year, he finally did. "He looked great with it, don't get me wrong," explained Suzy, "but he looks so handsome without it."