Sport: The G-Man and the Russian

The U.S. trackman rated least likely to succeed at Helsinki was a stringy (5 ft. 10 in., 145 lb.), 29-year-old FBI agent named Horace Ashenfelter. As he stood with eleven rivals at the starting line in the Olympic Stadium, he was the only American to reach the finals of the Olympic steeplechase, a punishing 3,000-meter run around a 400-meter track studded with 3-ft. barriers and a barricaded water jump.

Until the qualifying rounds began, only Ashenfelter himself would have bet much on his chances. A former Penn State distance man, and an ex-Air Force...

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