The 2024 Olympics are not far off, and potential athletes are already preparing to compete. Athletes in the USAF are no different, and an internal program is ready to help them down that path.
The World Class Athlete Program is the Air Force’s way to provide exceptional athletes an opportunity to compete at the highest levels of their sports. The program is designed to maximize athletes’ abilities and give them a shot at representing the US on the world stage. Since its establishment in 1995, the Air Force WCAP has produced 13 athletes that represented Team USA at Olympic Games. WCAP was established to recognize the spirit of US military athletes, starting with Mal Whitfield.
A First in the World
Malvin “Marvelous Mal” Whitfield was the first active-duty Olympian to win a gold medal. Mal joined the Army Air Forces in 1943 as a B-25 tail-gunner in the Tuskegee Airmen. He competed in the 1948 Olympics, earning gold in the 800-meter and 4×400 meter relay, as well as a bronze in the 400-meter. Four years later, he repeated his 800-meter performance, earning a gold medal, and followed that with a silver in the 4×400-meter relay.
Marvelous Mal flew a total of 27 combat missions as a tail-gunner on the B-25 during the Korean War. On his off-time, he trained between missions by running on the airstrip and taxiways. Though he did not make the cut for the 1956 Olympics, Mal remained heavily involved in the sport. He worked for the United States Information Service, conducting clinics and coaching athletes all over Africa, retiring in 1989. Marvelous Mal passed away in 2015.