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"Mark," his father would say, "how many lanes in a pool?"
"Six," the youngster would reply.
"And how many lanes win?"
"One, only one."
Today Arnold Spitz wants nobody to be mistaken about the importance of the role he and his wife Lenore played in Mark's development, but nothing disturbs him quite so much as the criticism that he pushed his son too hard.
"The greatest motivating factor in Mark's life has been Lenore and myself," Arnold Spitz said recently. "If George Haines is naive enough or foolish enough to think he created Mark, he's crazy. Because of what I've given of myself, this is what I created. He's a gorgeous human being, he's a beautiful person, it's terrible. You think this just happens? I've got my life tied up in this kid. You think I created a monster? He's beautiful, he's exceptional. There is nothing wrong with parents giving to their children. If people don't like it, the hell with 'em. You only have a few years to give, and now, in Mark's case, it's past, he won't come home any more. Now he is being taken over by himself and the others he is surrounding himself with, like Doc.
"There was a point when I pushed him, I guess, but if I hadn't pushed my son he would never have been at Santa Clara. If I pushed Mark, it was part of his development—and you know why I pushed him? Because he was so great, that's why. I can't believe any parent would say, 'Honey, if you're tired, you don't have to go to workout.' A child who has his parents behind him can govern his time, know there's a time to work and a time to play. If the parent isn't behind the child, there can be nothing outstanding, and it's not really a sacrifice. It's love.
"If the children are never really outstanding, you can get the same satisfaction—you can say that, I guess, but you don't really believe it. Swimming isn't everything, winning is. Who plays to lose? I'm not out to lose. I never said to him, 'You're second, that's great.' I told him I didn't care about winning age-groups, I care for world records."
Mark Spitz flourished at Arden Hills, but in 1961 the family moved to Walnut Creek, Calif., near Oakland, where he bounced ineffectually from one age-group program to another. Alarmed, Arnold Spitz consulted Chavoor, who recommended that Mark be taken to George Haines at Santa Clara. In February 1964, he began swimming for Haines.
"That was the turning point in my life," Mark says. "That was the point where I really went into swimming for a business, where I decided that I wanted to be good, to be somebody."