Shades of the 1972 100 freestyle. It seems the more heroic the attempt, the more Spitz must be cajoled.
Then, at a Jewish Sports Hall of Fame dinner in Irvine, Calif., in June, Spitz asked Olympic filmmaker Bud Greenspan, "Do you think I'm nuts? I think there's a chance I can swim at the speed I swam in Munich."
Greenspan just about choked. "Don't talk to anybody!" he said. "I want to film this. Don't do anything until we talk."
They met a week later. Greenspan told Spitz that the oldest athlete ever to medal in Olympic swimming was Hawaii's Duke Kahanamoku, second in the 100 free in 1924, at age 33. Which meant there was no precedent for what Spitz was contemplating. "You'd gain a lot of credibility if you even made it to the Olympics," said Greenspan.
"But what about my reputation?" asked Spitz.
"Your place in history is secure," said Greenspan. "This is the challenge of a lifetime."
"You know," said Spitz, coming to a decision, "you're right."
Spitz polled his family. "My father, my father-in-law and my wife thought it was ridiculous," he says, grinning. "They also think it's wonderful."
"He would love that moment of glory again, one more time," says Arnold. "I told him he still has the mentality. Dealing with what will be, in 1992, a 42-year-old body is the problem."
At first there was some question about whether Spitz would be allowed to race. The money he took for endorsements made him ineligible under 1972 rules, because he was no longer an amateur. But the rules have changed, so U.S. Swimming, the governing body for the sport in this country, issued him a competitor's card.