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.

Mal Whitfield (b. 1924) won gold in the 800m event and the 4x400m relay at the 1948 Olympics. “Marvelous” Mal served in the United States Air Force during the Korean War. He was the first black athlete to win the James E. Sullivan Award in 1954 for outstanding amateur athletics. Whitfield trained numerous athletes over the years and arranged sports scholarships for over 5,000 African athletes to study in the US. (National Media Museum @ Flickr Commons)

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.

World Class Athlete Program

Mal’s legacy lives on in the Air Force World Class Athlete Program. This program has produced 13 Olympic athletes and many more who have competed for slots on US Olympic teams. For the 2024 Olympics, the WCAP has two contenders for spots on US Teams.


The first is Second Lieutenant Leanne Singleton-Comfort. Lt. Singleton-Comfort is a 2020 Air Force Academy graduate and NCAA champion fencer. Singleton-Comfort began her athletic career at the University of California San Diego. She transferred to the Air Force Academy in 2016 and began competing for the Falcons. Singleton-Comfort distinguished herself in fencing at UCSD, enrolling as a freshman in 2015 and quickly qualifying for the NCAA Championships in Sabre Fencing. She then continued that streak throughout her time at the Academy, qualifying a total of four times. She earned All-American honors three times, and is a two-time NCAA West Regional/Western Fencing Champion, once in 2017, then again in 2020.

Cadet First Class Leanne Singleton-Comfort. (Image from US Air Force Academy (@AF_Academy) Twitter page.)

Lt. Singleton-Comfort initially wanted to be an investigator in the Air Force’s Office of Special Investigations, at least according to her UCSD athlete bio. She has since made some career changes, now acting as assistant coach to the AFA’s fencing team. A 2020 article released by the AFA stated Singleton-Comfort was to serve as a “space operator” but pointed to the fact she was applying to the WCAP. She is currently training for a spot on the US Fencing team to compete in Paris in 2024.

Modern Pentathlon

Airman First Class Tyler Evans is another athlete prepping for the 2024 Summer games. A1C Evans enlisted in the Air Force in July of 2021 as an Aerospace Physiologist. Evans is a modern pentathlete and has qualified for the US National Team and the World Championships.