James Duncan (athlete)

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James Duncan
Duncan posing 1912.jpg
James H. Duncan at the 1912 Olympic Games.
Medal record
Men’s athletics
Competitor for the  United States
Olympic Games
Bronze medal – third place 1912 Stockholm Discus throw

James Duncan (James Henry "Jim" Duncan; September 25, 1887 – January 21, 1955) was an American athlete, a member of the Mohawk Athletic Club, the Bradhurst Field Club and the Irish American Athletic Club. He competed mainly in the discus throw. Duncan was a member of the U.S. Olympic Team in the 1912 Summer Olympics held in Stockholm, Sweden and competed in the discus throw, winning the won the bronze medal. During World War I he rose to the rank of Lieutenant in the U.S. Army.

World record[edit]

Duncan was the first holder of the official world discus record. On May 26, 1912, he hurled the discus with his right hand 156 feet 1¾ inches (47.59) at the Irish American Athletic Club's track & field, Celtic Park in Queens, New York. On the same day, he hurled the discus 96 feet 7.5 inches, with his left hand, breaking the world's record for right and left hands combined with a distance of 252 feet 8 and 7/8 inches.[1] This throw was recognized by the IAAF when they issued their inaugural list of records in 1912.

Military career[edit]

Duncan was a Lieutenant in the U.S. Army, Expeditionary Forces during World War I. He was attached to the 11th Company of Engineers. He served in five offensive and one defensive sectors. After his discharge from the U.S. Army, he stayed in France, married a French woman and opened a gymnasium in Paris. He was also the caretaker and manager of the American Military Cemetery at Suresnes, near Paris and corresponded with many American mothers, informing them of his visits to their sons graves.[1]

In 1920, he was offered the position of trainer for the French Olympic athletes training for the 1920 Olympic Games in Antwerp.[2] In 1927, his 3 year old daughter, Jacqueline Duncan won a beauty competition, being voted "the healthiest and most beautiful child of more than 30,000 who entered a competition organized by one of the leading Paris newspapers."[3]

Duncan was critically injured in 1932, when in an apparent suicide attempt, he shot himself three times, with two bullets lodging in his abdomen. He was in France.[4] He died on January 21, 1955.


  1. ^ a b New York Times, April 27, 1932.
  2. ^ New York Times, April 16, 1920.
  3. ^ New York Times, June 1, 1927.
  4. ^ To, Wireless (April 27, 1932). "J. H. Duncan Shoots Himself In France. Superintendent Of The American Cemetery At Suresnes Is In Critical Condition. He Appeared Depressed. War Veteran Established 2 World Records For Discus Throw At Celtic Park Here In 1912". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-07-09. James H. DunCan, American veteran of the World War and for many years superintendent of the American Military Cemeetery at Suresnes, is in a serious condition in the hospital at Boulognesur-Seine tonight as a result of self-inflicted bullet wounds. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Men's Discus World Record Holder
May 27, 1912 – September 14, 1924
Succeeded by
United States Thomas Lieb