London 2012: Mark Foster rules out Olympic comeback

By Nick HopeBBC Olympic sports reporter

Six-time world champion Mark Foster has confirmed he will not attempt a comeback for the London Olympics.

The 50m sprint-freestyle specialist came out of retirement for the Beijing Games and, at the age of 38, was the Team GB flag bearer in 2008.

But Foster told BBC Sport: "There comes a time when you would rather walk away than hobble away."

As recently as September Foster had suggested that he might still attempt to qualify for a sixth Olympic Games.external-link

"I was tempted, many times, and I never announced I was retiring [after Beijing] because I always wanted to keep the door open," the 41-year-old added.

"I've been to five Olympics but I would have given them all up for one shot to be at London.

"I know I could make the team and be in the top two in the country but would I do anything? No, I'd probably make the semi-finals, maybe."

After success at world, European and Commonwealth level, the only honour to elude the three-time world record holder was an Olympic medal, which Foster admits he would have been best-placed to achieve in Athens 2004.

The freestyler missed out on the qualification mark by 0.05 seconds and, despite claiming that a shoulder injury had hampered his preparations, Foster's appeal was turned down.

At the time national performance director Bill Sweetenham, who was criticised heavily by Foster during his time in charge of British Swimming, claimed: "It looks like the end of a career."

The Essex-born swimmer responded: "I can't believe the criteria do not include provision for wildcard selection. I could win a medal for Great Britain."

He subsequently went on to claim a sixth World Championship with short-course gold in Indianapolis later that year.

Foster won the first race at London's Aquatics Centre, the venue for the 2012 Games, in an event which marked one year to go until the Olympics, but it was not enough to tempt him to make a full-time return to the pool.

"When I was 15, 16 years old I always wanted to go to Australia, New Zealand, France and race abroad, but as I got older I realised that the most important races were the ones I did back home where friends and family could come and watch you," said Foster.

"I've been fortunate to be selected for five Olympic Games; it could have been six and it could have been seven, but there has to be a point where you leave it alone and let the younger ones have a chance."

Adam Brown external-linkand Simon Burnettexternal-link are Foster's tips for the Team GB Olympic spots in the 50m freestyle next year and they, along with the rest of the British Swimming team, will compete for those places at the British Championships at the Olympic Aquatic Centre in March.