Originally created 09/27/00

Augusta coach is judge at olympics

Mike Burley is one Olympic participant who won't be going for the gold.

The 47-year-old Augusta Prep track coach is in Sydney, Australia, as a technical judge for the modern pentathlon.

"I'm always excited about sports," Burley said.

The modern pentathlon is a one-day, five-event competition developed by the founder of the modern Olympic Games, Pierre de Coubertin. Athletes earn points based on their performances in events which include shooting a .177 caliber air pistol at a stationary target, fencing with an epee against every competitor, swimming 200 meters, riding a randomly selected horse over a course of four-foot obstacles and running 3,000 meters.

"It's a little frustrating for me, because it's not really well-known in the United States at all," Burley said. "It's on the lines of archery and badminton."

In the Olympics, all 10 pentathlon technical committee members will be responsible for some part of the pentathlon. Burley is involved with the running event -- making sure the course is up to the specifications of the rule book -- and also will be on the appeals committee.

"I've always gone to the Olympics in some capacity since I competed in '76," said Burley, a former member of the Board of Directors for the U.S. Olympic Committee. "I think '96 in Atlanta was the best, actually. I played a pretty major role in the sport of pentathlon."

In the Atlanta Olympics, Burley was a venue producer for pentathlon.

"I worked with the manager to make it a show for the spectators," he said. "Anything that had to do with announcing, scoreboards, music, results, just the show of it was my responsibility."

And the gig in '96 showed how important he was to the sport.

"In '96, because I guess people on the International Committee thought I did a pretty good job, they nominated me to this technical committee of 10 people," Burley said. "I was elected right after the Olympics for a four-year term."

The Olympics is not unfamiliar territory for Burley. He competed in the 1976 Olympics in the pentathlon and was a member of the 1980 U.S. Olympic team that boycotted the Moscow Olympics. It was a frustrating time for Burley, as the U.S. had won the team pentathlon competition in the 1979 World Championships.

"It was the first time the United States had won a gold medal in any World Championships or Olympic Games (in pentathlon)," he said.

Burley grew up in Ohio and started swimming at age 8 and began running in junior high.

"I had a real talent for running and swimming," he said. "Those are the basic sports in the pentathlon. Almost every country looks at young 15-, 16-, 17-year-old kids for runners and swimmers. Then they try to develop the skill events."

The Olympics genes have been passed down in the Burley family, as daughter Caitlin Gazelle attended her first Olympics in Calgary, Alberta, in 1988 when she was 3. Caitlin hopes to compete in Olympic volleyball in the future.

Reach Chris Gay at (706) 868-1222.


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