Burrell Finishes Fourth in Heptathlon, Devers' Injury Knocks Her Out of Olympics

Aug. 23, 2004

On Saturday, on the final day of competition in the heptathlon, former Bruins Shelia Burrell and Michelle Perry finished fourth and 14th respectively, while track and field great Gail Devers succumbed to a strained calf muscle, knocking her out of the 110m hurdle competition.

Devers, who was added to the 100m roster after Torri Edwards was handed a two-year suspension for a banned substance, failed to make the final in the 100m. Throughout the competition she has a wrap around her left calf, but no one knew what exactly had happened to her or how serious the injury was.

Devers looked in pain during warm-ups and was limping. On her re-injuring her strained left calf at Olympic Stadium, warming up: 'I heard it pop. I jumped up and tried not to scream because I knew the cameras were on me. Everybody has the own obstacles to overcome. Even when I had Graves disease, half my family didn't know. This is mine to deal with. I tried to play it off. I was just hoping to get through the first round, to tell the truth.

'Coming out on the practice track before I came out here, it was feeling a little tighter than I wanted to feel. I tried to block it out of my mind. I came out [to the Stadium], the first time over a hurdle [in warm-up] it popped and then it pulled downward. I knew the cameras were watching and I just tried to limp back. I was pulling and I just said, 'I'm going to run.' I said in my head, I'm tougher than it is and I don't care if it's pulling, I'm gonna go.

Devers went into the starting blocks and went down almost immediately, writhing in pain under the first hurdle.

'The gun went off, I went out, when I put my foot in flexion to go over the hurdle, it pulled again,' said Devers. For some reason I ended up under the hurdle and on the ground. ... I knew before I got in the blocks that it was gone already. My head said 'I'm running if it's going to pull 10 times in the race, it's gonna have to pull.

On running the 100 earlier in the meet: 'It's easier in the 100 because it's consistent motion. It's pushing off in the hurdles that's the problem. I knew the 100 was my best bet to get through the Games at all. I didn't think it would pull again, I just thought I would feel scar tissue breaking up.'

On her legacy: 'The lesson I learned is, you have to be tough. If you set a goal for yourself and keep the dream alive, nobody can stop you. It does not mean you have to be number one. That doesn't have to mean that you'll get to what other people think is excellence. That's the gold medal that everybody says has eluded me. Do I think I'm a failure? I'm nowhere near being a failure, because what god has blessed me with is endurance and mental strength. Regardless of obstacles I'm faced with I'm going to conquer them. I believe I conquered them tonight just getting out there and trying when I already knew it was gone. My career is not over. I'm here, I'm alive. I'm not healthy, but I'm live. I've been blessed.'

Joanna Hayes looked impressive in the opening rounds of the 100m hurdles, breezing through rounds one and two. In the first round, Hayes ran 12.71, finishing first in her heat. Later, in the semifinals, she again won her heat, posting the fastest time of the semifinals, 12.48.

Sheena Johnson advanced to the finals in the 400m hurdles, scheduled for Wednesday. Johnson ran 54.81 in the opening round, finishing 2nd in her heat. In the semifinals, running in lane one, she ran 54.32, finishing third in her heat.

Burrell, who was 12th after day one of the heptathlon competition, came back on Saturday to finish fourth overall. Burrell jumped 20-6.25 in the long jump (927 points), threw 156-5 in the javelin (815 points), and ran 2:15.32 in the 800m (888 points), for a two day total of 6, 296 points.

'So close, but no cigar,' said Burrell 'That was pretty intense. I came here expecting to medal and I'm just so thankful to the medical staff at USA Track and Field. This past week since we've been in Crete I've been a high maintenance athlete. I competed today with a stress fracture in my foot (right). I didn't want anybody to know - I said I'm going to go for this. I said to my coach, don't ask me if I'm hurt, don't ask me how I'm feeling. I'm just going to go out there and be a soldier.'

'I don't even think my coach thought I would do this well. I'm a two-time Olympian and I walk out of here with my head hanging really high, not even hanging. My head is lifted up. I finished fourth place, I wanted to be on that medal stand really bad, but after this, I'll walk out of here a champion.'

Michelle Perry finished the competition with 6, 124 points after posting marks of 19-9 in the long jump (856 points), 125-10 in the javelin (636 points), and 2:13.69 in the 800m (911 points).

'Today wasn't the best day for me,' said Perry. I was consistent as far as my long jump and javelin.

'Physically this is probably one of the hardest heptathlons I have done. I had to battle my body for the last two days because there was always something that wasn't feeling good but I made it through and that was positive. My groin yesterday, my heels, everything you can think of but this is the heptathlon.

'It was a positive experience being in my first Olympic Games and I finished. The Olympic Trials are probably the hardest track meet in the U.S. so for me to make it here says a lot. Sheila (Burrell) helped me through the javelin and I talked to her about the 800 and to bring home the medal.'

For complete results go to www.olympics.com