Greg Foster, the 1984 Olympic silver medalist and three-time world champion in the 110m hurdles, has died at age 64, according to NBC Sports analyst Ato Boldon and UCLA track and field.
UCLA, where Foster starred from 1977-80, said that he passed away peacefully Sunday after a long battle with amyloidosis.
In 2020, Foster had a heart transplant after being diagnosed with amyloidosis in 2016 and undergoing chemotherapy.
From 1981 through 1991, Foster won six national 110m hurdles titles (including the 1984 Olympic Trials), gold at the first three editions of the world outdoor championships in 1983, 1987 and 1991 and the 1984 Olympic silver medal in Los Angeles.
In August 1981, Foster ran his personal best of 13.03 seconds, finishing runner-up to rival Renaldo Nehemiah in a race where Nehemiah became the first man to break 13 seconds in the 110m hurdles.
Foster, in relation to Nehemiah, was “Gehrig to his sport’s Ruth, Alydar to Affirmed, the Lakers to the Celtics,” the Washington Post wrote.
After Nehemiah left track for the NFL, Foster won the 1983 World title despite hitting the eighth and ninth of 10 hurdles.
He entered the 1984 Los Angeles Games with the four fastest times in the world for the year, according to World Athletics. In the final, Foster flinched in the starting blocks, yet quickly regained the lead from lane one before being beaten at the tape by three hundredths by Roger Kingdom from lane eight.
“For a year and a half before that Olympics, I never lost,” Foster said, according to the Chicago Tribune. “I would have loved to lose all those races and win the Olympics.”
In 1985, Foster’s mom, an aunt, a cousin and his 5-year-old nephew who had been named after him died from a hit-and-run car accident.
Foster won the 1986 U.S. title, then repeated as world champion in 1987.
Foster, once engaged to Florence Griffith Joyner, broke his left arm two and a half weeks before the 1988 Olympic Trials. Wearing a forearm cast, he hit several hurdles and failed to finish his semifinal.
“That is a vision of the Olympic spirit more lasting than any medal,” his coach, Bob Kersee, said then, according to Sports Illustrated.
Foster broke his left arm again in a 1989 pickup basketball game that included Darryl Strawberry, then broke the fifth metatarsal in his right foot in 1990.
Also in 1990, he tested positive for pseueoephredrine, ephredrine and phenylpropanolamine, banned stimulants commonly found in over-the-counter medication, after taking extra-strength aspirin and “some 89-cent vitamins that I bought at a gas station.” He was banned three months.
Again, he came back, winning a third consecutive world title in 1991 (when worlds were held every four years).
He then placed fourth at the 1992 Olympic Trials, missing the three-man team for Barcelona by two hundredths of a second coming back from a groin strain. At 33, he was bidding to become, at the time, the oldest U.S. Olympic male sprinter in 80 years, according to Olympedia.org. His last recorded race was in 1996.
The Greg Foster Invitational indoor track and field meet was held Saturday at his alma mater of Proviso East High School outside Chicago.
NBC Olympic research contributed to this report.