Penn State track and field legend Horace Ashenfelter passed away in his West Orange, New Jersey home on Saturday at the age of 94.
The 1952 Olympic champion in the 3000 meter steeplechase is the lone Penn State alumnus to win an individual gold medal at any Olympic Games. The race was dubbed a “Cold War Showdown” as Ashenfelter defeated heavily-favored Soviet Vladimir Kazantsev — chasing down his competitor in the final lap at Helsinki Olympic Stadium and breaking a world record in the process.
Ashenfelter, who was also an FBI agent during his competitive days in track and field, was a national and collegiate champion at various distances, but had only raced six previous times in the steeplechase — which incorporates hurdles and water jumps into its nearly two-mile event. He was the first, and currently only, American to win the 3,000 meter steeplechase at the Olympics.
The National Track Hall of Fame inducted Ashenfelter into its 1975 class and Penn State named its indoor facility, Horace Ashenfelter III Indoor Track, in honor of the two-time Olympian.
.@PennStateTFXC has a heavy heart with the passing of Horace Ashenfelter – an amazing ambassador for our team, our sport and our University
— John Gondak (@CoachGondak) January 7, 2018
Horace Ashenfelter, USATF Hall of Fame Class of 1975 and Olympic champion in the Steeplechase, passed away at the age of 94.
— USATF (@usatf) January 7, 2018
Today the running world lost a legend. The 1952 Olympic steeplechase champion Horace Ashenfelter has passed away at the age of 94, just 17 days shy of his 95th birthday. Ashenfelter was the surprise winner of the steeplechase at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics. pic.twitter.com/5bXgnqr1WY
— Joseph Fuller (@JustRunFuller) January 6, 2018
Horace Ashenfelter, who died today at 94, was on a very exclusive list.
US Olympic champions in distance events (1500/5k/10k/steeple/marathon) since 1912:
That's it. pic.twitter.com/QlhZ9VAkXE
— Jonathan Gault (@jgault13) January 7, 2018
Horace Ashenfelter, the 1952 Olympic Steeplechase Champ, passed away yesterday. He won gold while working full time as an FBI agent. A glimpse of his training: pic.twitter.com/09602Osmxv
— Steve Magness (@stevemagness) January 7, 2018