A peek into our collections, one object at a time

Let the Games Begin

August 5, 2016

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Mark Spitz in Speedo wearing gold medals
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

With the kickoff of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro imminent, the time was right to pull out this groovy 1972 portrait from the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery. It shows the mustachioed swimmer Mark Spitz sporting the seven gold medals he won that year.

Spitz had competed in the 1968 Olympics, but the 1972 games in Munich saw him reach Olympics immortality when he set the world record for the most gold medals won during a single Olympic Games, collected in both individual and team events.

Michael Phelps, who will again swim in the 2016 Olympics, currently holds the record for the most gold medals received in a single Olympics. He won eight in the 2008 Beijing games and holds the record for the most Olympic medals won—though it remains to be seen if he can rock a star-spangled swimsuit like Spitz.