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Mal Whitfield Dies: Three-Time Olympic Gold Medalist, WWII Vet Was 91

Image: Mal Whitfield Dies: Three-Time Olympic Gold Medalist, WWII Vet Was 91
1948 Olympic gold medalist Mal Whitfield attends the Team USA Road to London 100 Days Out Celebration in Times Square on April 18, 2012, in New York City. (Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

By    |   Friday, 20 Nov 2015 01:35 PM

Mal Whitfield, the three-time Olympic gold medalist and a member of the WWII Tuskegee Airmen, died Thursday at a military veteran's hospice facility in Washington, D.C. He was 91.

His daughter, CNN news anchor Fredricka Whitfield, told The Washington Post that her father suffered from heart disease and prostate cancer.

Whitfield won the gold medal in the 800-meter run and a bronze medal in the 400-meter run at the 1948 Summer Olympics in London, despite his limited experience in international competition.

He then anchored the 1,600-meter relay team to a gold-medal win, for his third medal of the Games, according to The Post. At the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki, he won the 800-meter run again, tying his own Olympic record of 1:49.2 he set back in 1948. He also led the 1,600-meter relay team to a silver-medal finish, the newspaper said.

With the victories, Whitfield became the first active duty U.S. military personnel to win Olympic medals, often training at his military barracks between assignments.

"Whitfield famously trained for the 1952 Games while serving during the Korean War, where he flew 27 missions," wrote the International Association of Athletics Federations. "He won 66 of his 69 800 meters/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, one at 1,000 meters in 1952; and he was also a part of the USA 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," the IAAF statement continued.

During World War II, he became a member of the celebrated Tuskegee Airmen, which was part of the Army Air Forces, The New York Times reported. The Tuskegee Airmen were the first African-American servicemen to serve as military aviators in the U.S. armed forces, according to History.com.

Whitfield promoted sports and physical education in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East for the United States Information Agency and his own foundation after his athletic career. In 1974, he entered the National Track and Field Hall of Fame and then the United States Olympic Hall of Fame in 1988, according to The Times.

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Mal Whitfield, the three-time Olympic gold medalist and a member of the WWII Tuskegee Airmen, died Thursday at a military veteran's hospice facility in Washington, D.C. He was 91.
mal whitfield, dies, olympian, tuskegee airmen
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Friday, 20 Nov 2015 01:35 PM
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