Steve Genter is one tough hombre. An All-American in swimming and water polo at UCLA, Genter was one heck of an athlete. Standing 6 foot 5 inches tall, Genter earned a gold in the 800 FR and silver in the 200 (1:53.73) and 400 (4:01.94) Freestyles in Munich.
His best event, the 200 Free, was Mark Spitz’ best chance of losing. That is until Steve Genter collapsed a lung. Said Spitz prior to the race, “This may sound terrible, but now I don’t have to worry about him.”
“Steve Genter suffered a collapsed lung before the Olympics in 1972. He underwent a painful procedure in a Munich hospital without anesthesia. He was sewn up with 13 stitches. He couldn’t take painkillers because they were on the disallowed drug list. Genter was determined to swim despite the pain. During the 200 Free Finals, the stitches came open and blood trickled out.” – Dan Stephenson, The Underwater Window
Despite the collapsed lung, Genter raced his heart out, leading much of the race until running out of gas. After the race, Steve Genter told reporters, “Nothing would have pleased me more than to beat him. But I just couldn’t do it.”
Here are all the swimming finals from the 1972 Munich Olympics. I’ve fast-forwarded it to the beginning of the 200 Freestyle. On the second turn, Steve Genter rips his stitches out. Can you see the blood in the water?
Steve Genter also earned a silver medal in the 400 Free, though he was beat by a young Rick DeMont, the current Head Coach of the Arizona Wildcats. DeMont failed a drug test for ephedrine and Genter moved up from Bronze to Silver.
DeMont had filled his paperwork out properly after making the Olympic Team but the USOC neglected to turn his forms into the IOC’s Medical Committee. He’d been taking asthma and allergy medicine since he was 4 years old.
The U.S. Olympic Committee admitted — after a 12-year effort by DeMont to clear his name — that it had erred in its handling of DeMont’s medical information at the 1972 Olympics. DeMont had disclosed on his medical statement that he was taking the drugs Marax and Actifed for allergies to wheat and fur. – Dan Patrick in 2001
Rick DeMont was just 16 years old when he was stripped of his gold medal in the 400 Free and forced to drop out of the 1500. One of the biggest travesties in all of swimming.