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Original Issue


It was a much happier occasion this time (page 36) that brought together SI's Jerry Kirshenbaum, swimmer Mark Spitz and Photographer Heinz Kluetmeier (above): they had last met at the Olympics, where the glory of Spitz' seven gold medals was so abruptly eclipsed by the shock and terror of the attack upon the Israeli athletes.

Kirshenbaum and Kluetmeier had both done a number of stories on Spitz, and thus by Munich were far closer to him than most of the journalists by whom he was suddenly inundated; in fact, on the night he nailed down the seventh gold medal, it was Kirshenbaum. Kluetmeier and Writer-Reporter Anita Verschoth who took Spitz to dinner. At about three a.m. they returned him to the Olympic Village, and he took the elevator alone to his room. Less than two hours later the Arab killers sneaked into the Village and raided the Israeli quarters a few blocks from where Spitz lay sleeping.

A special press conference had been scheduled for Spitz at nine in the morning Kirshenbaum went to the press headquarters seeking information on the raid—the Spitz conference had been canceled, he assumed, and he further assumed that Spitz himself, as a Jew and the hero of the Games, had been prudently put under guard. He was flabbergasted when, shortly after nine o'clock, Spitz strolled in, laughing and joking with Coaches Sherm Chavoor and Peter Daland. "It was incredible to me," recalls Kirshenbaum. "It was typical of the U.S. Olympic Committee. Those guys were probably sleeping in. Besides, for reasons of taste, if nothing else, the press conference should have been canceled."

He went up to Spitz and said, "My God, you don't know, do you?"

"Know what?" asked Mark.

Kirshenbaum told him, and Coach Chavoor immediately asked German officials to arrange a guard. Spitz, stunned and scared, asked what he should say about the raid, putting Kirshenbaum in the unwonted position of public-relations adviser.

"Well, whatever you say, I don't think you should say, 'No comment,' " advised Kirshenbaum. "Say what you feel."

Spitz either misunderstood this advice or disregarded it because the very first question concerned the raid, and he said, "I think it's tragic. No comment." The press conference was a shambles; for one thing, given the general uncertainty as to the scope of the Arab violence, Spitz was reluctant to stand too close to the microphones, which in this case may have been a plus. Afterward, Spitz returned by bus to the Olympic Village, which by that time had achieved excellent security. Kirshenbaum tried to enter with him, but was firmly halted by guards at the gate.

Kirshenbaum and Kluetmeier did not have that problem last week. Spitz' father took the photograph of the three on Thursday. On Sunday the cameras were back in Kluetmeier's hands as he and Jerry covered Mark Spitz' wedding as journalists—and as friends