JamaicaThe rise of sprint hurdler Brigitte Foster in the last two years has been brisk, and the World Championships 100m Hurdles silver medallist remains hungry for even more success.
In head to head encounters this year with the USA’s legendary Gail Devers, who is currently the World ranked number sprint hurdler, Foster has only had one win in five races. Yet after a consistently strong season of performances including a Pan American gold medal, there are not many pundits who would bet against her moving to the top of the Event World Ranking, and the medal podium at the Athens Olympics in 2004.
Foster who turned 29 years of age on 7 November, is joint fastest in the world this year over the 100m Hurdles with Devers, thanks to her Area and Jamaican record run of 12.45 seconds in Eugene on 24 May.
In the Paris World Championships, Devers, the former three-time World 100m Hurdles champion hit a barrier in her semi and failed to qualify for the final, making Foster the hot gold medal favourite.
However, in that final Foster was surprised by Canada’s Perdita Felicien (12.53), and her dramatic last gasp attempt (12.57) to catch her rival sent the Jamaican crashing down on to the track as she crossed the line for silver.
In that context Foster could quite rightly feel disappointed that she had not taken the World title but in reality with the Pan-American Games gold and a series of brilliant performances on the Grand Prix circuit to go with her World silver, Foster is still content to reflect on a good overall season.
"Yes it is, after all I started the year with nothing and to end it with all those things beside my name, of course it was a brilliant year.”
"I would have loved the gold in Paris, but Athens is always there, and I can promise you one thing, I will be ready".
Foster who was born in St. Elizabeth, one of the rural parishes in Central Jamaica, spent two years on the NCAA circuit in the United States, where in her final year in 1998 she won bronze, beating American Meisha McKelvy, who was the silver medallist behind Devers at this year’s US nationals.
However, after leaving South West Texas University, as it was then known, Foster remained for a while in the shadows of the former world class elite of Jamaican hurdling, Michelle Freeman, Delloreen-Ennis London, Gillian Russell and Dionne Rose-Henley.
Things took a turn for the better in 1999, when after a short stint in St. Lucia working out with well known track and field coach Michael Olivierre, she returned home and met the man who changed her life, one of Jamaica's top coaches Stephen Francis, and made the decision to train for the top from her base on the island.
"It was very tough at first, because it had never been done, but I took the chance and right now I have a support system here in Jamaica that I would not trade for the world, my relationship with Mr. Francis is simply fabulous. He has pretty much transformed me into what I am today, and for that I must say a big thank you to him."
Foster admires Devers to whom she finished second at the 2002 World Cup Final in Madrid, but acknowledges that the 100m Hurdles has now become even more competitive, and that in the light of Felicien's Paris performance anyone in the world elite can win gold on any given day.
Eighth at the last Olympics in Sydney, Foster is already looking forward to next year with only two things in mind, winning Olympic gold in Athens and reaching the top of the World Ranking.
Training started for her four weeks ago and with the likes of Asafa Powell, Jermaine Mason and other big names in her group under Francis’ guidance, all that she hopes for in 2004 and more seems to be possible.
Wayne Walker (Sportscaster at KLAS FM Radio in Jamaica) for the IAAF