Spitz, once the star, upset over Beijing snub
by Polly Hui
13 hours, 36 minutes ago
Buzz Up Print
HONG KONG (AFP) - US swim legend Mark Spitz won't be on hand in Beijing if Michael Phelps breaks his record of seven gold medals at a single Olympics—because, he says, no one bothered to invite him.
Spitz said the International Olympic Committee, a US television network or FINA—the international body that governs world swimming—should have brought him to the Games this year, with Phelps making a go at his record.
"I never got invited. You don't go to the Olympics just to say, I am going to go. Especially because of who I am," Spitz told AFP in Hong Kong.
"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."
Spitz became one of the most famous athletes in the world at the 1972 Munich Olympics, winning seven gold medals—with seven world records—in what many consider to be one of the greatest achievements in all of sport.
Phelps is aiming to better that mark in Beijing, hoping to bring home eight golds. And Spitz, now 58 and grey and without his trademark moustache, cannot understand why he wasn't asked along to see the show.
"They voted me one of the top five Olympians in all time. Some of them are dead. But they invited the other ones to go to the Olympics, but not me," he said. "Yes, I am a bit upset about it."
Now a stockbroker and motivational speaker, Spitz also thinks he could have won eight golds himself in Munich if only he had had the chance.
"I won seven events. If they had the 50m freestyle back then, which they do now, I probably would have won that too," he said.
Spitz, whose brief stint in show business in the 1970s never quite matched his success in the pool, said he attended the Athens Olympics four years ago—when Phelps also tried to break the record.
"They did not once put my face on television," he recalled. "But as soon as the swimming was over, and Michael Phelps didn't break my record, every time I went to beach volley, they put my face on the volleyballs."
Spitz said it would have been a great idea if he could be the one presenting the gold medals to Phelps, who has for years been candid about his ambition to eclipse the mark of seven golds.
And Spitz thinks Phelps will succeed—for one very good reason.
"He's almost identical to me. He's a world-record holder in all these events, so he is dominating the events just like I did," Spitz said. "He reminds me of myself."