Carefree Foster pays high price

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The Independent Online

Mark Foster was warned yesterday that the careless side of his easy- going nature could cost him an Olympic gold medal in Atlanta next year.

Dave Haller, Foster's coach at the City of Cardiff, did not try to hide his anger after the world short-course 50 metres freestyle champion failed to qualify for the final of the 100m freestyle at the Optrex European Championship trials in Sheffield yesterday.

Foster missed out after failing to submit his entry card before the 8am deadline for the morning heats. Officials agreed to allow him to swim, but he had to take a vacant lane in one of the slowest heats and finished ninth fastest in the list of qualifiers - one place outside the final.

Haller guided David Wilkie to his 1976 Olympic breaststroke triumph and believes that Foster is capable of winning the 50m freestyle in Atlanta.

But he admitted after Foster's blunder: "I am not a happy man. Mark has let himself down today. I thought we had got him out of doing silly things like that."

Foster said there had been "a misunderstanding" over entering his card but admitted Haller was correct to emphasise proper pre-race preparation, saying: "I have just got to get it through to my thick skull."

Foster should still qualify for this summer's Europeans in Vienna by winning tomorrow's 50m freestyle. Sarah Hardcastle, the 26-year-old double European medallist, booked her place by winning last night's 800m freestyle - a fortnight after getting married.

Graeme Smith, the Anglo-Scot from Stockport Metro, ensured that Scotland will have at least one representative in the British team by taking the 1500m freestyle.

Results, Sporting Digest, page 47