British Personality: Mark Foster

Doing It My Way


Anita Lonsbrough

Mark Foster, the fastest man in water, has a new training regime. It may not be to all coaches' way of thinking, but it brought him success at the European Short Course Championships in Sheffield last December, when he broke the World record not just once but twice on his way to winning the 50 freestyle title.

After finishing sixth at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, Foster admits that four years later in Atlanta he was "a flop." But not one to give up, he always believed in himself and so went about making changes to his diet and training methods. He is now enjoying his sport much more. To him, "swimming up and down is boring." Most swimmers and coaches know that the way to success is through hard work. Foster, however, now spends more time on land, with just eight sessions a week in the water, focusing on quality, not quantity.

After the Atlanta Olympics, Foster looked around to see which sprinters were successful and what their training methods were. The Sandra Volker and Dirk Lange set-up in Hamburg appealed to him. In 1997, he spent four months with the Lange team, and it was only the desire to be back in England that curtailed his stay.

Mark Foster, GBR
PLACE Billericay
OCCUPATION Full time swimmer
REPRESENTS University of Bath
COACH Ian Turner / Dirk Lange
98 SC Europeans 1st 50 free 21.31
98 Worlds 13th 50 free 22.85
97 Europeans 2nd 50 free 22.53
96 Olympics 16th 50 free 23.01
95 Europeans 4th 50 free 22.76
94 Worlds 6th 50 free 22.76
93 SC Worlds 1 st 50 free 21.84
92 Olympics 6th 50 free 22.52

Back home, he joined the new Centre of Excellence at the University of Bath, which Foster claims has "fantastic facilities." Although Ian Turner is the chief coach at Bath, Lange still sets Foster's programs, but depending on how he feels, Foster makes the decision to add or drop certain parts. With lottery funding, there have been many changes in Britain, with several recruitments from outside the country. Foster feels sad and disappointed that Lange is not one of them. Bath intends to bring him over for short periods, but Foster does not believe this is enough. He wants to see Lange in Britain full time.

Life in Britain for a swimmer has become much easier financially. Lottery money now helps pay Foster's mortgage, while prize money eases other financial worries. His new approach and friendship with 32-year-old Colin Jackson, the world record holder for the 110-m hurdles, has given Foster a new outlook on his sport. Jackson has taught him that age is only a number, not a barrier.

Now all of Foster's work is about enjoyment. Gone are the long and tedious elements of training. Even his warm up has changed: he no longer feels he needs to do 2000 m-he finds just 200 m are sufficient All this has made Foster needle sharp, more focused, and determined not to be beaten until after the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

Foster, now 27, plans to go on swimming until at least 2002, when the Commonwealth Games will be held in Manchester. He admits "I love racing." He also wants to put the world record for the 50 m out of anyone else's reach. While he was "over the moon" with his 21.31 in Sheffield, he firmly believes he can dip under the 21-second barrier. If the 2000 Sydney Olympics bring him the reward-a gold medal, which he believes should be his-Mark Foster will be able to sing at the top of his voice, "I did it my way."