Foster unfastened the Velcro straps and took off his plastic cast, his arm tightly wrapped in elastic bandages, and went out for the first round. In the set position, he put as much weight as he could on his good arm. Hurdling very carefully, he won his heat in 13.58. He was third in his quarterfinal in 13.69.
But a hurdler who leads with his left leg uses his left arm forcefully to balance the thrust of his driving lead leg. Foster could do little but hold his arm close to his side. Every barrier threw him off balance. In the semifinal he hit the sixth, barely cleared the seventh and, off balance, pushed over the eighth and stopped.
"That is a vision of the Olympic spirit more lasting than any medal," said Bob Kersee, Foster's coach.
Foster thus heads a list of great names you will not hear in September. Mike Conley, the best combination triple and long jumper in history, did not finish in the top three in either event and thus did not make the team. Four-time Olympian John Powell was fifth in the discus. The best U.S. miler of 1987, Jim Spivey, a victim of a sloppy, slow 1,500, finished fourth. American 400-hurdles record holder Judi Brown King, weakened by a mysterious malady, was fifth.
So as you page back to the agate type of FOR THE RECORD to survey the great team the U.S. will send to Seoul, you should keep in mind that, as ever, a fine one is staying home.
And, if Foster is an example, coming to terms with it well. After staying to watch '84 Olympic champion Roger Kingdom win the hurdles final in a wind-aided 13.21, Foster slipped away. But a friend, carrying a toddler, stopped him to commend his courage. The tiny girl pointed to Foster's cast.
"A boo-boo," Foster gently said to her. "Did a little boo-boo."