Mal Whitfield

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Mal Whitfield
Mal Whitfield USA Athlete, Olympic Games, London, 1948.jpg
Whitfield at the 1948 Summer Olympics
Personal information
Birth name Malvin Greston Whitfield
Nickname(s) "Marvelous Mal"
Nationality American
Born (1924-10-11) October 11, 1924 (age 90)
Bay City, Texas
Height 6 ft 0 in (183 cm)
Weight 168 lb (76 kg)
Sport Track and field
Event(s) 400 metres, 800 metres
Achievements and titles
Personal best(s) 400 m: 45.9 (1953)
800 m: 1:47.9 (1953)

Malvin Greston Whitfield (born October 11, 1924) is an American former athlete. He was the Olympic champion in the 800 metres at the 1948 and 1952 Summer Olympics. Overall, he is a five-time Olympic medalist (three gold, one silver, one bronze).


Born in Bay City, Texas, Whitfield joined the United States Army Air Forces in 1943 as a member of the Tuskegee Airmen. After World War II he remained in the military, but also enrolled at the Ohio State University. In the early 1950s he also served in the United States Air Force during the Korean War. He won the NCAA title while at Ohio State in the 800 m in 1948 and 880 yd (800 m) in 1949. After leaving the university he won the AAU title from 1949 to 1951 at 800 m, in 1953 and 1954 at 880 yd (800 m) and in 1952 at 400 m. He also won the 800 m at the 1951 Pan American Games in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

At the 1948 Olympics in London, Whitfield won the 800 m and was a member of the winning 4 × 400 m relay team. He also earned a bronze medal in the 400 m. At the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki, Finland, he repeated his 800 m victory. He also earned a silver medal as a member of United Statese 4 × 400 m relay team. He set a world record in 880 yd (800 m) of 1:49.2 in 1950 and dropped it to 1:48.6 in 1952. In 1954 Whitfield won the James E. Sullivan Award, given annually by the Amateur Athletic Union of the United States (AAU) to the outstanding amateur athlete in the country. He was the first black athlete to win the award. Whitfield narrowly missed making the 1956 Olympic team while a student at California State University, Los Angeles and he retired from track competition shortly thereafter. After graduating he worked for the United States Department of State, conducting sports clinics in Africa.

In his 47 years in Africa, Whitfield trained and gave consultation to dozens of athletes who represented their countries as Olympians and All-Africa Games champions. Whitfield also arranged sports scholarships for over 5,000 African athletes to study in the United States.[1] During his career as a diplomat, he traveled to over 132 countries and played a key role in training and developing African athletes. The President Ronald Reagan wrote of him: "Whether flying combat missions over Korea, or winning gold medal after gold medal at the Olympics, or serving as an ambassador of goodwill among the young athletes of Africa, you have given your all. This country is proud of you, and grateful to you." Shortly after his retirement from government service in 1989, Whitfield was invited to the Oval Office, where President George H.W. Bush recognized his service to the nation and the world.[2]

Whitfield was inducted into the Ohio State Varsity O Hall of Fame in 1978. Among track and field athletes, only Jesse Owens had been inducted before him. He is the father of CNN anchor Fredricka Whitfield[3] and accomplished high jumper Ed Wright.


External links[edit]