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Duncan White MBE

DLC in Physical Education, 1951

The first Ceylonese athlete to win a medal for his country in an Olympic event Duncan White won Silver in the 400-metre hurdles at the 1948 London Olympics in 51.8 seconds with only three months training for the event. He was also the only South Asian to have won an Olympic medal in track and field for more than fifty years and remained the only Olympic medal won by a Sri Lankan for 52 years. The outstanding achievement at the 1948 Olympics prompted the Government to award Duncan a scholarship to Loughborough University.

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 took up a post as a Physical Eduction lecturer on the ‘Theory of Physical Education’ and trained students in physical training and sports. He was appointed Ceylon’s National Athletics Coach in 1958 but later left Ceylon to take up an appointment as Director of Athletics at University of Ibadan, Nigeria.

He was awarded a Member of the British Empire (MBE) in 1949 but only many years later in 1988 was he honoured by his Sri Lankan homeland by a postage stamp.