On This Day: Jewish-American swimmer Mark Spitz sets Olympic gold medals record in Munich 

California-born Jew Mark Spitz's remarkable run saw him compete in seven swimming events, winning every single one and setting seven world records.

Mark Spitz in action at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, West Germany (photo credit: VIA REUTERS)
Mark Spitz in action at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, West Germany
(photo credit: VIA REUTERS)

September 4, 2022 marks 50 years since Mark Spitz, an American-Jewish swimmer set the sporting world alight in the 1972 Munich Olympics.

Spitz's remarkable run saw him compete in seven swimming events, winning every single one and setting seven world records. He won the following competitions: 100-meter freestyle, 200-meter freestyle, 100-meter butterfly, 200-meter butterfly, 4x100 meter freestyle relay, 4x200 meter freestyle relay and the 4x100 medley relay.

He was the first athlete in history to win seven gold medals in one Olympics. Spitz's achievements in 1972 were only bettered by fellow American swimmer Michael Phelps, who won eight gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Olympic achievements overshadowed in Munich

Spitz's incredible summer was overshadowed by the murder of 11 Israeli Jews by the Palestinian Black September terrorist group in what is now referred to as the Munich Massacre.

Members of Israeli sports organizations form a Guard of Honor in front of command cars bearing the bodies of victims of the Munich massacre during memorial services at Lod Airport (credit: GPO FLICKR/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)Members of Israeli sports organizations form a Guard of Honor in front of command cars bearing the bodies of victims of the Munich massacre during memorial services at Lod Airport (credit: GPO FLICKR/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)

The massacre recently made headlines again, as last week the families of the 11 slain Israeli athletes finally reached a compensation package with the German government to settle a long-term dispute centered around a perceived lack of accountability on then-West-Germany's part in the terrorist attack that occurred on their home soil.

Mark Spitz's life, magnificent Olympic career

Spitz was born on February 10, 1950, in California to a Russian-Hungarian Jewish family.

In his first international competition, the 1965 Maccabiah Games in Tel Aviv, Spitz won four gold medals and was named the most outstanding athlete at the age of 15. He was a further four gold medals in his second Maccabiah Games in 1969.

Following five medals won at the 1967 Pan American Games, he would enter his first Olympics, the 1968 games in Mexico. He was two gold medals, both in team competitions.

 Retired US swimmer Mark Spitz poses for a portrait in Westwood, California May 21, 2012 (credit: MARIO ANZUONI/REUTERS) Retired US swimmer Mark Spitz poses for a portrait in Westwood, California May 21, 2012 (credit: MARIO ANZUONI/REUTERS)

As of 2022, Spitz remains one of five athletes to win nine or more gold medals in their Olympic career. He won nine gold medals, one silver medal and a bronze medal, bringing his overall Olympic tally to 11, the 19th joint-best of all athletes to have won at least one Olympic medal.