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Training Talk With Ed Burke (Part 3)

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In part one and part two of my training talk with throwing great Ed Burke, we discussed his long journey to 1984 in which he retired after making two Olympic teams and then came back to throw a personal best at age 44 and qualify for his third Olympic team in 1984.

The last part of our training talk centers around that pivotal time. We start by talking about what the youth program he set up immediately after his second retirement that ended up producing hundreds of throwers and multiple Olympians. It started off as a simple idea and can serve as a template for helping growing the sport. Then we also talk about 1984 itself and what it was like to be selected and actual carry the American flag at the Olympic Opening Ceremonies.


Part 1: The Beginning

Part 2: The Comebacks

Part 3: Youth Development and Carrying the American Flag

Martin: You had been away from the sport nearly 30 years before you came back as a masters athlete. Did you not throw the hammer at all during that time?

Ed: Oh no. Well, I shouldn’t say that. In 1985 I started the Explorer’s Post club with Mac Wilkins. I would demonstrate to the athletes and probably hold the world record for throwing the hammer in Rockport walking shoes.
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Training Talk With Ed Burke (Part 2)

Ed Burke throwing at the 1984 Olympics after his first comeback.

In part one of our training talk with US hammer throwing legend Ed Burke we talked about how he started out in the event and developed into one of the top throwers in the world. After reaching the top of the sport and making his second Olympic team, Burke abruptly retired in 1968. But the retirement was not permanent and he came back to the sport and threw a personal best of 74.34 meters and made another Olympic team at the age of 44. Then, after retiring again, he came back two decades later to compete as a master’s athlete and set several world records.

Part two discusses why he left the sport and why it kept calling him back.


Part 1: The Beginning

Part 2: The Comebacks

Martin: Both after the 1968 and 1984 Olympics you took extended breaks from the sport. What was the reason for retiring?
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Training Talk With Ed Burke (Part 1)

If you create a list of the best and most influential hammer throwers in American history, Ed Burke is at the top along with Harold Connolly, John Flanagan, and other greats. As a thrower, coach, and visionary he has had a lasting and continuing impact on all of track and field.

Our three-part training talk will look all these parts of Burke’s career, including the moment he is most well know for: carrying the American flag for the Los Angeles Olympic Games in 1984:

But while that may have been a highlight of his career, part one of our talk focuses on how it all began 24 years earlier. By the time of the Los Angeles Olympics, Burke was 44 years old and the oldest member of the Olympic team. His first Olympic appearance came in 1964 where he placed seventh. By competing again 20 years later he became the first American to have an Olympic career spanning so long. During that time Track and Field News ranked him among the top four in the world and in 1967 he ranked second and produced the farthest throw in the world, a new American record that broke Harold Connolly’s longstanding mark.

While Burke retired after Los Angeles, he was far from finished. He founded and coached a successful youth training group in the 1980s and 1990s that produced Olympians Kevin McMahon and David Popejoy. And he started throwing again at age 65. Since then he has set many age-group world records in the past decade. However these are stories for later in our talk. To start with Burke recalls how he discovered the event and developed into a world class thrower.

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