Flag-bearing, Rio rumours and peacocking: Mark Foster talks all things Olympics


It's been a whirlwind few weeks for Olympic pundit Mark Foster.

The eight-time world record holder and fellow presenters Helen Skelton and Rebecca Adlington have been a hit with viewers, explaining every twist and turn of the Olympic swimming competition in Rio.

Unfortunately, not everyone's focus was on the pool, as keen-eyed viewers criticised Skelton's clothing and what they thought was a budding romance between Foster and Adlington.

We talked to the five-time Olympian about his experiences in Rio and how life has changed from the pool to punditry.

What have you enjoyed the most about Rio?

The attitude of the Brazilian people. The atmosphere was so vibrant and carnival-like.

In the pool the crowd was amazing, but then again, I looked at the track and other places and there weren't many spectators.

Do empty stadiums affect athletes' performance?

Empty seats at the main athletics stadium in Rio (Martin Rickett/PA)
(Martin Rickett/PA)

I think when they step out there, they are so in the moment that they are not taking in what's around them. They are just focused on they are about to do.

My thing was always that dark and dingy mornings ploughing up and down a pool is not very glamourous, but then you get to step out and show the world what you can do.

We're all peacocks, we like strutting our stuff.

What was your most memorable moment from the Olympics?

It's got to be Adam Peaty's gold medal because of the way he destroyed everybody. I've not seen anyone destroy a world record like that in British sport.

Adam Peaty (Owen Humphreys/PA)
(Owen Humphreys/PA)

In swimming terms, I've never seen someone dominate a race so much and just know he is going to win the gold medal before the race even starts.

Is his cocky attitude what makes him such a good swimmer?

Physiologically he has the right body shape. Technically I think he is 100% perfect and his timing is spot on.

Mark Foster competing in the pool (Sean Dempsey/PA)
(Sean Dempsey/PA)

I could give you people that, as a kid, worked harder than me and had a better attitude than me but I beat them hands down because I was better than them.

You do get people who just happen to be better and have the right attitude and you get wonderful results.

Do you think the criticism of Helen Skelton's clothing was unfair?

I always find it slightly bizarre. It's not about what she's wearing, it's about what she's saying.

If you look at the newspapers, they are always highlighting what women are wearing and the way that they look.

Why is it that women get that kind of criticism, and unjustly so?

If Helen would have dressed drably and drearily, they would have made a thing of it; she wore a dress, and they still made a thing of it.

As a former flag-bearer yourself, what do you think about the choice of Andy Murray? 

Mark Foster with an Olympic Flag (John Giles/PA)
(John Giles/PA)

The problem is that there are so many worthy choices.

I think Andy was a good choice; he won gold in the last Olympics and he bought into the whole Olympic ethos. You can see from the Davis Cup he is very much a team player.

From that point of view, he was a good choice, and probably the biggest name we have in world sport apart from David Beckham.

Do you think it should have been a woman this time around?

I must admit I did think it was going to be Kat Grainger.

Katherine Grainger (John Walton/PA)
(John Walton/PA)

Historically there have only been two women and we have lots of wonderful women sports stars. For Kat, as it was her fifth Olympics and she had medalled at four of them, now at five of them. I think she would have been a great flag-bearer.

You and Rebecca Adlington clearly have a great friendship. How did you become friends?

We have known each other for 10 years.

When she first made Team GB, I was the old man of the team. I had been there and done it, and was someone to look up to a little bit.

When I was on the team I used to look up to Adrian Moorhouse and the older swimmers because they had been there and done it and they were the good ones.

I've done a lot of work with Becky around the sport, I've got a swim academy, she's got a swim school, I help her out promoting her swim schools. We're good friends.

How did you feel about the speculation surrounding you both?

It was hilarious and alarming.

Mark, Becky and Helen look on at events in the pool (Owen Humphreys/PA)
(Owen Humphreys/PA)

Apparently, at some point, there was a body language expert analysing us, saying: "Oh my God, they've got chemistry." Well, that person needs sacking 'cause there isn't anything going on!

We were there to cover swimming at the Olympic Games, and our sexual chemistry was being talked about more than what was going on in the water. I thought: "Hang on, there is a lot of stuff going on in the water, stop focusing on something that isn't."

On the other hand, if it is getting swimming attention...