A nine-time gold medalist, Mark Spitz knows a thing or two about how to successfully navigate the Olympic Games as an athlete.
Spitz, now 71, held the record of seven gold medals in a single Games when he dominated the pool in Munich in 1972, a tally that was surpassed by Michael Phelps in 2008.
That was after Spitz had backed himself to win six golds in Mexico City in 1968, only to win two, both in relays – a disappointment that he says motivated him to achieve his record-breaking feat four years later.
Here, the former swimmer from the United States outlines the lessons he learned over the course of his Olympic career.
1. Be prepared, be motivated, and be lucky
A lot of people going to the Olympic Games have trained their whole life to do so. I once calculated that over the 13 or 14 years of my career leading up to Munich, I had swum around 26,000 miles – enough to go around the equator, the whole of this planet.
But then, so did another 200,000 athletes who were swimmers at the time. So, what singled me out? Maybe it was a little bit of luck. Maybe it was the program that I was in. Maybe it was my “failure” in 1968 that motivated me to do better.