Thomas Burke (athlete)

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Thomas Burke
Thomas Burke 1918.jpg
Thomas Burke in 1918
Personal information
BornJanuary 15, 1875
Boston, Massachusetts, United States
DiedFebruary 14, 1929 (aged 54)
Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Alma mater Boston University School of Law
Height6 ft 0 in (183 cm)
Weight146 lb (66 kg)
Event(s)100-800 m
ClubBoston Athletic Association
Achievements and titles
Personal best(s)100 m – 11.2 (1895)
200 m – 22.6 (1897)
400 m – 48.5 (1896)
800 m – 1:55.9 (1897) [1]

Thomas Edmund "Tom" Burke (January 15, 1875 – February 14, 1929) was an American sprinter. He was the first Olympic champion in the 100 and 400 meter dash races.



Burke, a student at Boston University School of Law, was a reputed runner in the 400 meters 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 meters. 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 an even better time – 11.8 seconds. [2]

At the same Olympics, Burke also won the 400 meters, 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. [2]

Later in his career, Burke specialized 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. [1] [2]

Burke later became a lawyer, but was also an athletics coach and a part-time journalist, writing for The Boston Journal and the Boston Post. [2]

In World War I he was commissioned a first lieutenant and at age 43 was the oldest man in the US military to earn his aviator's wings. He died at age 53, collapsing on a ferry boat from Winthrop to Boston. [3]

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