Horace Ashenfelter’s Amazing Race
One of the highlights of our July/August 2016 issue is the story of Horace Ashenfelter ’49, ’55g, the only Penn State alumnus to win an individual Olympic gold medal. Ashenfelter won the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the 1952 Games in Helsinki with a world-record time of 8:45.4.
At the top of this post is a truncated version of the race, which includes the final water jump and Ashenfelter’s sprint to the finish line. You’ll notice that Ashenfelter’s main competitor, Russia’s Vladimir Kazantsev, stumbles in the water (around the 2:44 mark), which led to Ashenfelter pulling ahead. Ashenfelter explained in our story that he noticed that the water pit was getting “messy,” so he tried to influence Kazantsev into one of the slippery areas with the hopes that he’d make a mistake.
Ashenfelter’s lead was so large that his rather awkward approach on the final hurdle didn’t cost him.
“He almost forgot to jump over it,” remembers his wife, Lillian. “He didn’t take it in stride. It was like, ‘whoops!'”
Despite the unconventional approach, he managed to clear the jump before coasting to victory: Ashenfelter finished about six seconds ahead of Kazantsev and clinched the gold.
Bill DiFilippo, online editor