Spitz: Phelps To Teach His Rivals Biggest Lesson Ever
Craig Lord
The 1972 legend says of the pretender to his Olympic record haul: 'I think you're going to see the biggest schooling for his competitors in the history of sports'

Mark Spitz, he of the seven gold medals in 1972, believes that the pretender to his record haul, Michael Phelps, will in Beijing provide the biggest lesson in excellence to rivals that the world of sport has ever seen.

In an interview with USA Today, the US legend, when asked If Phelps, once off to a good start, could be beaten, says: 'Guess what, that momentum will go a long way for Michael. That's the same thing that happened to my competitors . . . I think you're going to see the biggest schooling for his competitors in the history of sports.'

As for the pursuit of eight gold medals, Spitz reminds us all of the pressure of it all when he says: &quote;I was under the radar screen until I had five gold medals . . . he for the last five years has been living with the middle name of Mark Spitz.'

So it's a sure thing, then, the seven golds, Spitz is asked. 'I'm not a going to go to Vegas and place a bet . . . but the guy holds four world records in five of the individual events he's swimming,' replies the man who added his name to the world-record books seven times in Munich in 1972.

The interview also raises the issue of Spitz's sometimes-stormy relationship with his father back in his swimming days. In homage to his late father, Spitz says: 'The bottom line is that if not for him I don?t think I would have been able to accomplish what I did. He moved the family (to be near a top swim club in Northern California). He had the foresight to see that being in the right company could be contagious.' The men he had to chase in training included the likes of Don Schollander, who in 1964 became the first swimmer ever to win four gold medals at one Olympic Games.

Spitz also talks about the risks of having - as he does - dangerously high cholesterol counts. You can read about that in the full interview with him at USA Today.