Horace Ashenfelter
Personal information
Full nameHorace Ashenfelter, III
Born(1923-01-23)January 23, 1923
Collegeville, Pennsylvania, U.S.
DiedJanuary 6, 2018(2018-01-06) (aged 94)
West Orange, New Jersey, U.S.
Medal record
Men’s athletics
Representing the  United States
Olympic Games
Gold medal – first place 1952 Helsinki 3000 m st.
Pan American Games
Silver medal – second place 1955 Mexico City 5000 metres

Horace Ashenfelter III (January 23, 1923 – January 6, 2018)[1] was an American athlete. He competed in international athletics from 1947 to 1956. During his career he won fifteen national AAU titles and three collegiate national titles.


Ashenfelter was born in Collegeville, Pennsylvania, where he attended Collegeville High School. He completed his degree at Penn State, where he was a member of Delta Upsilon fraternity, and served in the United States Army Air Forces as a pilot and gunnery instructor during World War II.[2]

Although he was considered a long shot, Ashenfelter was the surprise winner of the steeplechase at the 1952 Summer Olympics at Helsinki with a dramatic surge on the last lap following the final water jump after trailing substantially early in the race. In what was considered an early athletic Cold war battle, he finished ahead of Vladimir Kazantsev of the USSR and John Disley of Great Britain, and broke Kazantsev's unofficial world record (the IAAF did not accept official records in the steeplechase until 1954) in the process. Since Ashenfelter worked for the Federal Bureau of Investigation,[2] it led to humorous comments about him being the first American spy who allowed himself to be chased by a Russian. In addition, Ashenfelter won the Sullivan Award as outstanding amateur athlete for the year 1952.

Ashenfelter won the Millrose Games two-mile run from 1952 to 1955 and again in 1957. His best winning time was in 1954 at 8:53.3. He won the USA Cross Country Championships back-to-back in 1954–1955, three years after his Olympian younger brother Bill Ashenfelter had won the same championship, the only set of brothers to both win the event.

He was inducted into the National Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1975, the Millrose Games Hall of Fame in 2001 as a five-time champion and the National Distance Running Hall of Fame in 2012. He was inducted into the Sports Hall of Fame of New Jersey in 1998.[3]

Personal life

Ashenfelter lived in Glen Ridge, New Jersey, where the Ashenfelter 8k Classic is held annually in his honor.[2][4] The indoor track facility at his alma mater, Penn State, is named in his honor.[5]

Ashenfelter died at a nursing home in West Orange, New Jersey, on January 6, 2018, 17 days before his 95th birthday.[2]

See also


  1. ^ Evans, Hilary; Gjerde, Arild; Heijmans, Jeroen; Mallon, Bill; et al. "Horace Ashenfelter". Olympics at Sports-Reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. Archived from the original on February 15, 2011. Retrieved April 1, 2010.
  2. ^ a b c d McFadden, Robert D. "Horace Ashenfelter, Olympic Victor of a Cold War Showdown, Dies at 94", The New York Times, January 7, 2018. Accessed January 7, 2018. "Horace Ashenfelter, an American runner who set a world record in the steeplechase at the 1952 Olympic Games in Helsinki, Finland, beating an overwhelmingly favored Soviet champion in what was billed as a test of Cold War supremacy, died on Saturday morning in a nursing home in West Orange, N.J.... He retired in 1993 but continued to run frequently in Glen Ridge, N.J., where he lived. The town’s annual Thanksgiving Day run is called the Ashenfelter eight-kilometer classic."
  3. ^ "Ashenfelter to be Inducted into Philadelphia Sports Hall of FameFormer Nittany Lion standout and Olympic gold medalist to be recognized", Penn State University, November 7, 2012. Accessed January 7, 2018. "He has been inducted into a number of Hall of Fames over the years, including the USA Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1975 and the New Jersey Sports Hall of Fame in 1998."
  4. ^ A8KClassic
  5. ^ Horace Ashenfelter III Indoor Track