|Full name||Duncan M. White|
1 March 1918|
Lathpandura, Kalutara, Basnahira, Sri Lanka
|Died||3 July 1998
Nuneaton, Warwickshire, Great Britain
|Updated on 22 June 2015.|
Duncan White, MBE (1 March 1918 – 3 July 1998) was the first Ceylonese athlete to win a medal for his country in an Olympic event. He won a silver in the 400-metre hurdles at the 1948 Summer Olympics in London, England. He was also the only South Asian to have won an Olympic medal in track and field for more than fifty years.
White was born on 1 March 1918 in Lathpandura near Kalutara, in British Ceylon, the second of four children of John Bernard White and Cecilia Hawk White, descended from principally British lineage. He was educated at Trinity College, Kandy where he was awarded 'Trinity Lion' for athletics; this was subsequently withdrawn from him due to minor disciplinary reasons. White won his Olympic medal the same year Ceylon gained independence from Britain. He had trained for only about 3 months before the games while the gold medalist, Roy Cochran of the USA, had trained for about 4 years. White's time for the event, 51.8 seconds, was only 0.7 seconds behind Cochran, which along with Cochran's time bettered the existing Olympic record.
After the Olympic victory, White was welcomed at a ceremony at Trinity, and was honoured by returning his 'Lion'. Making a speech at the special assembly, White stated that "although my victory at the Olympics is prestigious, the 'Lion' makes me feel more honoured than that", and received the 'Lion' with open arms.
In the 1950 British Empire Games in Auckland, New Zealand, White won the 440-yard hurdles, only 0.3 seconds behind the world record. He was awarded the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in 1949 but only many years later in 1988 was he honored by his Sri Lankan homeland by a postage stamp.
White was married to Angela White née Siebel and had six children: Maxine, Nita, Christopher, Daniel, Marilyn and Fiona. He had three brothers, Frederick A. White, also an athlete, Stanley Leonard White and Douglas Andrew White (died 1960). He was a Major in the Ceylon Army Volunteer Force.
The athlete died in 1998, in the town he'd inhabited for most of his later years, Nuneaton, Warwickshire, England. That is despite White's admitted intentions to migrate his family to New Zealand before death, since New Zealand was 'the only country in the world to match England in beauty and exceed it in peace'. His wife Angela is still homed in Nuneaton.
The Duncan White Sports Foundation was founded on Duncan's 72nd birthday, on March 1, 1990, and the first award was presented to Sriyantha Dissanayake by Duncan White himself on March 1, 1991.