Swimming: Growing Up to the Legend

Swimmer Mark Spitz, then an 18-year-old high school graduate from Santa Clara, Calif., returned from the 1968 Olympics with two gold medals, one silver and one bronze—and a feeling of failure. Goaded by the press corps in Mexico City and supremely self-confident, Spitz had unwisely spoken of winning five or even six gold medals in the freestyle, butterfly, medley and relay events. "I tried not to believe all I was reading about myself, but I wound up believing every word of it," he says. "After the Olympics, I was more than disappointed. I was downright depressed."

By now Spitz should...

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