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Inspiring Canadians - In Sport and Life

Honoured Member

DUNCAN MCNAUGHTON

Inducted in 1955

Member Details

Date of Birth: December 7, 1910
Place of Birth: Cornwall, Ontario
Date of Passing: January 15, 1998
Sport: Athletics
Member Category: Athlete

Career Highlights

1932

Olympic Games, gold medal - men’s high jump

1933

U.S. intercollegiate champion - men high jump (tied for first place)

Honoured Member DUNCAN MCNAUGHTON
Inspire

Story

Duncan McNaughton remains the only Canadian man ever to win an Olympic high jump gold medal. His victory at the 1932 Los Angeles Games, however, stands as testament to friendship rather than competition. Born in Cornwall, McNaughton grew up in Vancouver, where he was a successful high school athlete in both basketball and track and field. In 1930, he enrolled at the University of Southern California to study geology. However, that same year McNaughton competed for Canada at the first-ever British Empire Games (now the Commonwealth Games) in Hamilton, Ontario. He finished the men's high jump competition in fourth place after being disqualified for using an illegal jumping technique. While at USC, McNaughton changed his jumping style to the more traditional "western roll" to avoid future disqualifications. He was aided in this transformation by fellow high jumper, teammate, and friend, Bob Van Osdel and, using his new style, McNaughton won the state intercollegiate high jump title with a California-record jump. McNaughton was chosen to represent Canada at the 1932 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. He hadn't attended the Olympic trials but was studying in L.A. at USC and the effects of the Depression were making it difficult for athletes from around the world to travel to the Games. During the dramatic high jump competition, McNaughton and his friend, Van Osdel, were the only jumpers to clear 6'6". As the event passed the three-hour mark, the gold medal had yet to be decided. The two jumpers refused to share first place, but also could not clear higher heights. The bar was then lowered to 6'6" (it was officially measured at 6'5 ?"). McNaughton was the only one to clear this height again. He claimed the gold medal over the friend who had helped him perfect his jumping form. McNaughton's achievement stands as Canada's last gold medal at a "field" event in the Olympic Games. The following year, he proved his victory was no fluke. While still a student at USC, McNaughton competed in the 1933 U.S. intercollegiate championships, in Chicago. He and Vincent Murphy of Notre Dame both cleared the bar at 6'4" and were declared co-winners of that year's men's high jump championship. McNaughton retired from athletic competition following his collegiate career. Having finished his geology studies he worked for the Canadian Geological Survey before serving with the Royal Canadian Air Force during the Second World War. After the war, he earned a Ph.D. in geology and worked in the petroleum industry.


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