Friday, April 15, 2011

Mark Foster

Mark Andrew Foster (born 12 May 1970 in Billericay, Essex, UK) is a British professional swimmer, specialising in butterfly and freestyle at 50 metres. He is a specialist short course (25 metre pool) swimmer. In terms of medals and longevity (1986–2008), Foster is amongst the most successful British swimmers of all-time. He made a comeback at the national championships in July 2007 winning both events he competed in after barely training. He achieved the fifth best time in 2007 in the world at 50 metres freestyle and retired for the second time after the 2008 Olympics. Mark was first taught by the mother of Sarah Hardcastle at a pool in Southend-on-Sea. He was the fastest swimmer in the country by age 15. Mark Foster was educated at Alleyn Court Preparatory School in Westcliff on Sea, Millfield School, and Southend High School for Boys where he excelled in athletics, football and tennis. Foster competed in the sixth series of Strictly Come Dancing with professional dancer Hayley Holt He managed to stay in the competition until Week Six when he was voted off by the judges in the dance-off, while they saved Andrew Castle.

Mark Foster Crawl Technique

First selected for the British team in 1985, the breakthrough came in 1990 when he won his first individual international medal - bronze - in the Commonwealth Games in Auckland. He finished the 50 metres freestyle with a time of 23.16 seconds. He had previously won bronze as part of the 100 metre freestyle relay in the Edinburgh games four years previous, but cites the 1990 medal as his first great sporting moment. Success followed rapidly, and in the next few years Foster broke the World Short Course freestyle record four times, the World Short Course butterfly record twice, and set the World Long Course butterfly record (in 1996) with a time of 24.07 seconds. Despite success at Commonwealth, European and World championship level, Olympic titles eluded him, and he has never won a medal. Some have suggested that he has never quite achieved his full potential, arguing his maverick approach to training and preparation cost him a higher world ranking. In 2004, Foster was to face the disappointment of not being selected for the Olympic Games. At the British Olympic Trials, he won the 50 free in 22.49 seconds, well under the Olympic qualifying standard but seven hundredths of a second below the standard National Team Director Bill Sweetenham had set for inclusion in the British Olympic Team. Foster has openly criticised Sweetenham's management style, so Sweetenham ensured he was not selected. Nonetheless he was to respond to his omission from the Olympic squad with a stunning gold in the World Short Course Championships in Indianapolis later that year. In the 50 metre freestyle he touched in 21.58 seconds, ahead of Stefan Nystrand of Sweden. Although Mark announced his retirement from swimming after the European short course championships in April 2006 at the age of 35, he still occasionally competed that year at invitational meets. He returned from "retirement" in 2007 with an aim to win an Olympic medal at the 2008 Olympic Games. Returning to the British squad he won a silver medal in the 50 m freestyle at the 2008 FINA Short Course World Championships, and qualified to represent Great Britain at the same distance in the Olympics. At the opening ceremony on 8 August, he carried the flag for Great Britain during the Parade of Nations. He failed to qualify for the men's 50 m freestyle semi-finals, finishing almost two-tenths of a second outside the top 16.

In May 2009, Mark Foster became patron of The Anaphylaxis Campaign, the UK charity for people with severe allergies. He won £10,000 for the Campaign by participating in Who Wants to be a Millionaire?, broadcast on ITV on 8 September 2009. In October 2008, Mark Foster was announced as a celebrity judge for the Miele Fashion Prize, in aid of children's medical charity, Sparks. In June 2009, Mark Foster supported ActionAid's PoverTee Day by having a T-shirt painted on his torso. Mark appeared on the ITV show Beat the Star first broadcasted on 4 April 2008 in which he won 18-3, appearing as the 'star' and as a guest home owner on BBC2's Through the Keyhole first broadcast on 28 May 2008. During Summer 2008, Mark appeared on the new series of Superstars broadcast on Five in the UK. He later appeared on a Strictly Come Dancing special of the Weakest Link in December 2008, and won £15,900 for charity, beating Anton du Beke in the final round. He had previously appeared on an Olympic special, but did not win. Foster co-presented BBC Look East's 6.30pm bulletin, with Susie Fowler-Watt on Thursday 12 February 2009. Mark is a contestant on the BBC1 programme 'Let's Dance For Sport Relief' as of 20 February 2010 as part of the dance group The Olympians. Mark also regularly appears on BBC TV regional news and local radio in his role of Ambassador of Pools 4 Schools, a programme run by Total Swimming with the Amateur Swimming Association to increase participation in swimming amongst primary school children.

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