Growing up in Lansdowne, Pennsylvania, just 20 miles from Carl Lewis' hometown of Willingboro, New Jersey, Burrell had dashed 10.43 and leaped 24-2.5 as a Pennsylvania prep. His robust build countered any image of disability -- legally blind in one eye (from a childhood accident; he suffers from severe myopia). An abysmal failure at other sports, he was cut from the junior high baseball squad three years in a row, and his football experiences were nearly as poor. In track, he produced. As a senior, he scored 40 points in the Pennsylvania state meet, leading his school to the title (the second-place team scored only 36).
Burrell came to Houston with some tabbing him as "the next Carl Lewis," a title he has come closer to living up to than any of Tom Tellez's other recruits. The potential came out in his first year, with a leap of 26-9. Then came the most serious injury of his career. At the Southwest Conference championships, he landed badly in the long jump pit and tore his anterior cruciate ligament. He endured major reconstructive surgery on his left knee, along with a year of intensive rehabilitation.
Healthy once more, Burrell ended up making it to the 1988 Olympic Trials in both the 100 and long jump; he didn't make the finals in either event. He ascended to the top ranks of the sprinting world in 1989. While Lewis stole headlines with his boycott of the USA Championships in Houston that year, Burrell ran, and won big in 9.94. He ranked 5th in the world in the dash, and the same year did his best long jumping ever. At the NCAA meet in Provo, he flew out to 27-5.5, placing 2nd.
In 1990, Burrell ranked as the world's top sprinter, winning the overall Grand Prix title. He also turned heads when he beat Michael Johnson to win the Southwest Conference 200 title. He blistered the furlong in 19.61, helped by a trailing wind. Under any conditions, no one has ever run faster. He followed up as strongly the next year, again ranking No. 1 despite taking silver to Lewis at the World Championships. Burrell's time at Tokyo, a stunning 9.88, topped the World Record of 9.90 he had set in winning the USA title on Randall's Island.
Seemingly in perfect position for the Olympic year, Burrell could not stay on top. At the Trials he ran 10.10, making the team but just missing the win; Dennis Mitchell finished first in 10.09. In the Barcelona final, Burrell was charged (many believe unfairly) with a false start. When the real race got off, he reacted to the gun more slowly than anyone in the field. He ran only 10.10, far behind Linford Christie's golden 9.96.
In 1993, after four straight years under the 10-second barrier, Burrell could only manage 10.02, troubled by hamstring and knee woes. He finished 5th at the USA Championships, failing to get an individual berth to the Worlds. Burrell did make the 4 x 100 relay, however, and for the first time got a chance to run anchor in a major meet. He brought the stick home in 37.48, after a WR-equaling 37.40 in the heats. He would receive his third straight relay gold in a Worlds/Olympics (with his third straight WR meet).
Injury troubles returned for Burrell. In 1994, he reclaimed the World Record with a 9.85 second dash in Lausanne on July 6. The euphoria didn't last long as an August foot injury sent him home early. That fall, he married Michelle Finn, a world-ranked sprinter herself with 11.05/22.39 bests.
Last summer, Burrell's troubles continued. An inflamed plantar tendon took him out shortly after he placed 5th at the USA Championships. He ranked only No. 6 in the U.S., clocking a best time of 10.25. "This whole season has been disappointing," he told the Houston Chronicle, "but I'm looking forward to the Olympics."
Born February 21, 1967 in Philadelphia, Pa 6-0/1.83m 185/84 Penn Wood HS (Lansdowne, Pa) '85 Houston '90 Santa Monica TC PRs (outdoor): 100--9.85 '94 (WR) 200--20.12 '92/19.61w '90 LJ--27-5.5/8.37(A) '89 (low-altitude: 26-9/8.15 '86) TJ--49-4.25/15.04 '85 PRs (indoor): 55--6.09 '89 60--6.48 '91 LJ--27-0/8.23 '90 Major Meets (100 unless noted): 1985 4)USA Junior 1986 5)USA Indoor 60y 1986 3)NCAA Indoor 55 1986 9)NCAA Indoor LJ 1988 5)NCAA 1988 7)NCAA LJ 1988 6s)Olympic Trials 1988 17q)Olympic Trials LJ 1989 1)USA Indoor 55 1989 2)NCAA Indoor 55 1989 1)NCAA Indoor LJ 1989 5)NCAA 1989 2)NCAA LJ 1989 1)USA 1989 2)World Cup 1990 2)NCAA Indoor 55 1990 1)NCAA Indoor LJ 1990 1)NCAA 1990 13q)NCAA LJ 1990 4)USA LJ 1990 1)GP Final 1991 1)USA 1991 2)USA 200 1991 2)World Championships 1991 6qf)World Championships 200 1992 1)USA Indoor 60y 1992 3)Olympic Trials 1992 5)Olympic Trials 200 1992 5)Olympic Games 1992 3)GP Final 1993 5)USA 1993 4)USA 200 1995 5)USA 1996 6)Olympic Trials Major Relays: 1988 4h)NCAA 4 x 100  1991 1)World Championships 4 x 100  1992 1)Olympic Games 4 x 100  1993 1)World Championships 4 x 100