Jewish Journal


August 18, 2008

At home in the water: Jews in the Olympic pool



A young Mark Spitz

You’ve got to wonder whether swimming, and not chess, is the true Jewish sport. This year’s U.S. Olympic swim teams wouldn’t be the same, and Michael Phelps wouldn’t have won eight gold medals, if it weren’t for Jewish swimmers Jason Lezak and Garrett Weber-Gale. And then there is Dara Torres, the 41-year-old native Angeleno who came within 0.01 seconds of winning gold in the 50 freestyle. And, oh yeah, there was also this old swimmer some years ago, I think at the Munich games, named Mark Spitz.

Oddly, Spitz wasn’t invited to Beijing to watch Phelps break his record, and he was none to happy about the snub.

“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,” he told AFP last week. “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.”

But after Phelps surpassed his Olympic achievement today, Spitz offered that “Michael Phelps is the greatest Olympic athlete ever.”

No argument there. But, don’t worry, Mr. Spitz. You and Sandy Koufax are still the greatest Jewish athletes ever—or at least since Samson brought down the house.

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