Godfather of U.S. competitive swimming bets on Phelps
Nine-time Olympic gold medal winner Mark Spitz pauses during a swim in the Bosporus.
July 14th, 2012
08:53 PM ET

Godfather of U.S. competitive swimming bets on Phelps

Nine-time Olympic gold medal winner Mark Spitz tells CNN he would bet on Michael Phelps if the U.S. swimmer ended up in a race against rival American Olympic hopeful Ryan Lochte in the upcoming London Olympics.

“I’m putting my money on Michael,” Spitz said when asked by CNN who he expects to see victorious at the London games. Spitz spoke to CNN in Istanbul moments after he plunged into the turbulent waters of the Bosporus, the fast-moving natural channel that divides the city in two.

Spitz was in Turkey’s largest city to promote this year’s Bosporus Cross Continental Race.

Arguably the greatest American competitive swimmer, Spitz donned an orange swim cap and swam alongside Istanbul’s Kurucesme Park, as passenger ferries and garbage collection boats churned through the congested water not far away.  He was accompanied by Turkish National Swimming Team trainer Erkan Mutlu in his foray.

When asked why he believed that Michael Phelps would outshine his rival Ryan Lochte, Spitz told CNN that Phelps had “more experience.”  The two U.S. Olympic swimmers are expected to go head-to-head in London in the 200- and 400-meter individual medleys.

Spitz: I put my money on Phelps

“Any time they’re swimming together it’s going to be a great rivalry, it’s going to be a great competition,” Spitz added.

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The 24th annual Bosporus Cross Continental race, introduced in 1989 by the National Olympic Committee of Turkey, is said to be the world’s only swimming competition to span two continents - Europe and Asia. This year 1,200 athletes from around the world will compete in the race.

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The race will begin Sunday on the Asian side of the Bosporus in the Istanbul neighborhood of Kanlica, and end in the European neighborhood of Kurucesme. In addition to the swimming competition, this year’s event also includes rowing and canoeing races.

Mark Spitz soared to sports stardom when he won seven gold medals at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games, a record broken at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing by Michael Phelps. Before he retired early, at the age of 22, Spitz had won a total of  nine Olympic golds, one silver, one bronze and set 33 world records.

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Filed under: Olympics • Sports • Swimming