Greg Foster’s First World Championship

by Steve McGill

For this month’s great race, we’re going to go back to the inaugural World Championships in track and field, in 1983 in Helsinki. Gold medalist Greg Foster’s winning time of 13.42 was not what was so impressive, as he had run faster than that plenty of times. The amazing thing was that he held on for the win after encountering near-catastrophe over the last three hurdles. In terms of historical significance, this victory was the first of three consecutive World Championship gold medals for Foster, who also won in 1987 and again in 1991. Back then, the World Championships were held once every four years. If it had been held every two years like it is now, there’s a very good chance he would have won even more. Foster’s body of work, dating back to the mid-1970’s is as impressive as that of any hurdler in history. Though several hurdlers have run faster than his personal best of 13.03, only two — Allen Johnson, Colin Jackson — can claim to have been as good for as long. Because Foster never broke the 13-second barrier, never held the world record, and never won an Olympic gold medal, his career often goes under the radar. Roger Kingdom reigned during Olympic years in Foster’s heyday. In 1984, Foster, in lane 8, finished .04 behind Kingdom, in lane 1. Lanes were assigned randomly back then, so they didn’t even see each other until they crossed the finish line.

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