Mark Foster had a swimming career like no other. Swimmers tend to peak at a young age and have a relatively short career. I say tend because as in everything in life there are anomalies and Mark is certainly that. He went to FIVE Olympic Games in his career (should of been 6 – another story for later on). His longevity as a British Swimmer at the top level is unparalleled. This was rewarded in 2008 when he was rewarded by being the flag bearer for TEAM GB at the Beijing Olympic Games.
Speaking to Mark was uplifting to say the least. His energy is unparalleled and he is a truly inspirational man. His drive and commitment came out in various examples during the podcast.
His Dad was petrified of water and it was this fear that made him want both Mark and his sister to enjoy it. Not necessarily to push Mark to become an Olympian but to encourage him to enjoy swimming and being in the water.
At 11 Mark become the fastest swimmer for his age EVER in the world. Growing up in Southend, Essex he showed this promise at a young age but in a sport that was not as funded and supported as it is now. Only the very top swimmers in the world could make a living out of Swimming so the chances of this early promise turning into a career were small. And what was interesting is Mark knew this from an early age and therefore although serious and dedicated he never thought at any point it would be become his life. This is fascinating for me as his drive and commitment came from something else; the need to win. Not the pound signs but simply a need to be the best. Mark is a winner – you get the sense he doesn’t do anything at all for second place.
His first memory of swimming on TV was the great British athlete Duncan Goodhew winning Gold in the 1980 Olympics and instantly he became Marks idol. This got even better when Duncan visited Marks local pool in Southend, showed off his medal and demonstrated his Olympic winning technique in the pool – a young Mark was transfixed. He goes on to tell me he feels that everyone needs something to ignite them, to inspire them and that was his lightbulb moment. It will be interesting to see how many athletes we meet in this journey feel the same.
At 13 Mark got the opportunity to attend Millfield School in Somerset, a famous sporting school with an Alumni of Professional Sportspeople in multiple sports. This was a huge decision at such a young age to leave friends and family in Essex and move to an unknown location without his support network. He talks about his experiences of hating it to start with and then learning the ropes and throwing himself into training to improve to the next level. This comes under our discussion of sacrifice and what it takes to succeed. So many great athletes I have been fortunate enough to talk to have had a similar decision to make at a young age like Mark and I can’t help but think this is a huge motivational tool in the development.
Mark is an incredible person and continues to inspire our next generation today. He has launched the Mark Foster Swim Academy where he visits places around the Country to educate and inspire the young swimmers in the UK. As a young kid who had his idol Duncan Goodhew visit him, I am sure that out there is the next great swimmer who has met Mark at the Academy and has had their own lightbulb moment.
Here’s to the next generation,
To listen to the podcast visit HERE