Tom Burke (athlete)

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Thomas Edward Burke (January 15, 1875 – February 14, 1929) was an American athlete. He was the first Olympic champion in the 100 and 400 metres races.


Burke, a student at Boston University School of Law, was a reputed runner in the 400 metres and 440 yards, having won the AAU title (440 yards) in 1895. He had no such reputation for the first event he entered in the inaugural modern Olympic Games in Athens, 1896. With many top sprinters absent, Burke surprisingly won the 100 metres. He was also noted for his "crouch start", which was uncommon at that time but in standard use now. His time in the final was 12.0 seconds. In the preliminary heat he had even better time – 11.8 seconds.

At the same Olympics, Burke also won the 400 metres, his top event. His times for that event were 58.4 seconds in the preliminary heats and 54.2 seconds in the final, in both of which Burke finished first.

Later in his career, Burke specialised in the longer distances, winning IC4A titles in the 440 and 880 yards events. In 1897, he was one of the initiators of the annually held Boston Marathon, inspired by the success of the marathon event at the 1896 Olympics.

Burke later became a lawyer, but was also a part-time sports journalist and athletics coach. He is also related to basketball player Pat Burke.


  • Wallechinsky, David. (1984). The Complete Book of the Olympics. New York: Penguin Books. pp. 3, 17.

1896: Tom Burke (USA)  • 1900: Frank Jarvis (USA)  • 1904: Archie Hahn (USA)  • 1908: Reggie Walker (RSA)  • 1912: Ralph Craig (USA)  • 1920: Charlie Paddock (USA)  • 1924: Harold Abrahams (GBR)  • 1928: Percy Williams (CAN)  • 1932: Eddie Tolan (USA)  • 1936: Jesse Owens (USA)  • 1948: Harrison Dillard (USA)  • 1952: Lindy Remigino (USA)  • 1956: Bobby Joe Morrow (USA)  • 1960: Armin Hary (GER)  • 1964: Bob Hayes (USA)  • 1968: Jim Hines (USA)  • 1972: Valeri Borzov (URS)  • 1976: Hasely Crawford (TRI)  • 1980: Allan Wells (GBR)  • 1984: Carl Lewis (USA)  • 1988: Carl Lewis (USA)  • 1992: Linford Christie (GBR)  • 1996: Donovan Bailey (CAN)  • 2000: Maurice Greene (USA)  • 2004: Justin Gatlin (USA)  • 2008: Usain Bolt (JAM)

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