Tue | Aug 22, 2017

Book on the life of G.C. Foster launched

Published:Friday | December 18, 2015 | 12:00 AMLeighton Levy
Diane Shaw, granddaughter of G. C. Foster, signing a copy of her book ‘Remembering G. C. Foster’, which was launched at the Football Factory on Olivier Road on Wednesday afternoon. Yohan Blake (left), the 2011 100m World champion, was among scores of persons interviewed for the book on the life of the legendary, but largely unheralded, Jamaican.

Other than the fact that Jamaica's only sports college was named after him, not much is known about Gerald Claude Eugene Foster.

For many, Jamaica's track and field history began in 1948 at the London Olympic Games, where Jamaicans like Arthur Wint, Herb McKinley, and George Rhoden began to write their own significant legacies, but in reality, it could easily be argued that G. C. Foster was actually the man who started it all, first as an athlete in the early 1900s; later, as a coach who played a key part in Jamaica's schoolboy sports; and even later, as coach and physiotherapist at the British Empire Games in 1934 and the Olympic Games in 1948.

In comparison to others, history has been unkind to Foster, whose work has gone relatively unrecognised.

"In some ways, I don't think he was valued enough at that time, and when we look back now at his role in coaching schoolboy athletes - whichever school he coached had a very good chance at winning Champs that year - maybe he wasn't valued enough," said Diane Shaw, Foster's granddaughter, who, on Wednesday, launched a book on her grandfather's life at the Football Factory on Olivier Road in Kingston.

The book is called Remembering G. C. Foster and was edited by Arnold Bertram, who has written several books on Jamaica's rich track and field history.

Shaw is the last grandchild of Foster, who unsuccessfully bid to represent Jamaica at the 1908 Olympic Games because Jamaica was not yet a member of the Olympic charter. She began research for the book decades ago, interviewing persons like the late Barclay Ewart, who benefitted from Foster's tutelage while he was a student at Jamaica College back in the 1950s.

She also interviewed the late Keith Gardner, another of Foster's early protegÈs, as well as Mauricio Ventura.

Shaw also spent time discussing her grandfather's contributions with coaches Glen Mills and Freddie Green, as well as modern stars like Yohan Blake. She said she did not get the opportunity to speak with Usain Bolt.

She recalls that each of the persons she interviewed for the book had nothing but glowing recollections of Foster, who died in 1966 at the age of 80.

"Most of the people that I interviewed just loved him because he was such a positive influence," she said.

Shaw admitted that while she knew her grandfather well while growing up, she discovered new things about him during her years of research.

"He had a passion for excellence, and he was a very endearing man. He also had a great sense of humour. There was a lot of laughter. After the athletes had their sessions, there was a lot of laughter after. He never tired. He could go on into the night massaging people until sweat poured down his face," she said. "He had endless energy for coaching, massaging, and prompting them to be the very best they could be."

All this work, he did for free.

The book is available at the Football Factory as distribution deals are still being worked out.