IaafNews19 Nov 2015

Two-time Olympic 800m champion Whitfield dies


Mal Whitfield on the anchor leg of the USA team that took the 1948 Olympic Games 4x400m gold medal (© Getty Images)

The IAAF is saddened to learn of the death of three-time Olympic champion Mal Whitfield, who died in Washington, USA, on Wednesday (19) at the age of 91.

At the London 1948 Olympic Games, Whitfield was then a 24-year-old US Air Force sergeant who had served in World War II and became the first US serviceman to win an Olympic gold medal while on active duty.

Whitfield won the 800m in an Olympic record of 1:49.2, anchored the USA 4x400m team to victory and took a bronze medal in the 400m.

Four years later, at the Helsinki 1952 Olympic Games, Whitfield successfully defended his 800m title and equalled his Olympic record from London, and won a silver medal in the 4x400m.

Whitfield trained for the 1952 Games while serving during the Korean War, where he flew 27 missions. He won 66 of his 69 800m/880 yards races from June of 1948 to the end of 1954.

He set three individual official IAAF world records: two at 880 yards in 1950 and 1953 and one at 1000m in 1952. He was also a part of the US teams that set official world records at the imperial distances of 4x440 yards and 4x880 yards within the space of six days in London in August 1952.

Whitfield’s other athletics achievements include winning the 400m, 800m and 4x400m gold medals at the 1951 Pan American Games.

Upon his retirement from competitive athletics at the end of 1956, Whitfield toured the world as a Sports Goodwill Ambassador for the US Department of State, coaching extensively across Africa, and later became the head of the physical education and sports department at the University of Nigeria.

He was elected to the National Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1974 and the US Olympic Hall of Fame in 1988.

The IAAF wishes to pass on its sincere condolences to his family and friends.

United States Olympic Committee and IAAF

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