“Miguel White (1909 – 1942): Olympic 400m Hurdles Bronze Medalist” by Joboy Quintos

I was a nineteen year-old college sophomore when I first read about Miguel White. Despite the best of my efforts, I was stuck in a rut, unable to go below sixteen seconds in the 110 high’s and qualify for the finals. I spent a considerable amount of time poring over athletics books, to further my knowledge of the sport and to get a much-needed dose of inspiration amidst those troubled times.

I came across a mildewed book about Filipino sporting legends. The Philippines had won a handful of medals in the Olympic Games, a couple of those by track & field athletes. I was awestruck. It turned out that Philippine sports, athletics in particular, had a storied past. I found the exploits of Simeon Toribio and White more interesting than rampant politicking often featured in contemporary sports pages.

There were more material written about Toribio, who eventually became a lawyer and a congressman after his athletics days. Miguel White’s story, however, was shrouded in mystery. White had an American father and a Filipina mother. He competed for the Philippines at the Berlin Olympics, winning the 400m low hurdles bronze. He could have performed with equal distinction at the 110m, but fell in the qualifying heats, unable to finish. Unlike Toribio, who lived until he was sixty-four, White died during the Second World War.

In the past few years, I tried in vain to look for clips of White’s Olympic medal winning effort. Photos were just as scarce. A few days earlier, I stumbled upon a treasure trove Olympic programs (from the 1896 Athens Olympics all the way to the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games).

White, Hardin and Loaring on the podium. A proud moment for the Philippines! (Photo from the 1936 Berlin Olympics Program/LA84 Foundation)

Lo and behold, there were photos of Miguel White, as well as the results of the qualifying heats. The Olympic program even included descriptions of the race conditions and the lane placements. For the athletics nerd that I am, these were priceless!

White went up against a quality field, among them Glenn Hardin of the United States, the world record holder at 50.6s. The Filipino topped the third heat in qualifying, stopping the clock in 53.4s, ahead of the eventual silver medalist, John Loaring (54.3s) of Canada. The American also qualified with ease, submitting a time five-tenths slower than White’s.

Miguel White from the Philippine Islands was the fastest hurdler in qualifying. In this day and age where Filipino athletes are hard-pressed to meet the Olympic “B” standard, reading about this was surreal! In the semi-finals, White (53.4s) finished behind Hardin (53.2s) in the first heat, securing a spot in the finals.

The first bend. Hardin and White are at the outermost lanes. (Photo from the 1936 Berlin Olympics Program/LA84 Foundation)

The world record holder stamped his class on the rest of the field. At the last hurdle, Hardin was a full stride from Loaring and White, who were locked in a tight battle for second place. The Canadian (52.7s) edged out White (52.8s) by a tenth of second.

Miguel White had emulated Simeon Toribio’s high jump bronze from  the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics.

A good shot of the final flight of hurdles. Hardin leads, with Loaring and White battling it out for the silver. (Photo from the 1936 Berlin Olympics Program/LA84 Foundation)

It is quite unfortunate that the Olympic feats of Toribio and White have been practically forgotten. Philippine sports may be in the doldrums, but perhaps looking back at our golden past might inspire a new generation of Filipino athletes.

Results (screenshots from the 1936 Berlin Olympics Program/LA84 Foundation):

1.) First Round:

Semi-Finals:

Final:

The Victors:

Article by Joboy Quintos

Source:

1936 Berlin Olympics Program (from the LA84 Foundation website)

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28 responses to ““Miguel White (1909 – 1942): Olympic 400m Hurdles Bronze Medalist” by Joboy Quintos

  1. pinoyhalfmiler June 7, 2012 at 11:35 PM

    Its a pity, Miguel White’s 52s,400m hurdles performance 80 years ago can still win a National title today.

  2. Pingback: Simeon Toribio (1905-1969): A World-Class High Jumper « Hurdler49: Hurdling the Real World

  3. pinoyathletics.com June 11, 2013 at 10:41 PM

    Philippine Record as of 4/4/2013 is now 50.74 for 400 Hurdles.

  4. tamaj123 September 8, 2013 at 10:51 PM

    which book did you use to find information about him? (specific)

  5. Dario December 3, 2013 at 2:42 AM

    Miguel White is my wife’s grandfather. Based on recollection of his late wife (Estelita White), while serving as a Philippine Army (Lt.) scout for the Americans during WW II, he stayed behind to provide fire cover for retreating comrades. He could have escaped easily but sacrificed but unfortunately got caught instead. He died during the Bataan death march based on news but it was never confirmed (makes it very likely) and was declared MIA.

    My in-laws attended the dedication ceremony by the Philippine Sports Commission (a few years back) of Miguel White to it’s hall of fame.

  6. pinoyathletics.info (@pinoyathletics) December 13, 2013 at 4:35 PM

    Havent heard from Hurdler 49 in a while. Great how it has ‘Lord Burghley’ in the list of previous winners.

  7. Pingback: Sports Heroes who displayed true heroism during the war | www.pinoyathletics.info

  8. Pingback: Philippine Sports History Articles (merged) | www.pinoyathletics.info

  9. Pingback: Legacy of Fil-Heritage Athletes in Athletics | www.pinoyathletics.info

  10. Romeo Nelson February 5, 2017 at 1:27 PM

    i’ve posted replies on here but somehow, they keep disappearing. Will someone please tell me how to keep posted items on this page and keep it from being deleted! I have significant news about Miguel S. White for anyone that remains interested! All help is appreciated. Romeo Nelson

    • hurdler49 February 6, 2017 at 8:13 AM

      I apologize in the delay in your comment approval. I hardly update this blog anymore; hence, the lull. Would be interested in reading more about Miguel White. Thank you for reading my blog.

    • AlexJ May 16, 2017 at 9:38 AM

      Hello Romeo Nelson, I’m interested in news of Miguel S. White and what happened to him and his family. Thanks!

  11. Dario Octaviano May 18, 2017 at 12:06 AM

    The lone surviving daughter of Miguel White is Thelma White-Ajero (my mother-in-law). She attended his “Philippine Sports Hall of Fame” enshrinement in 2010. Pictures of the event are posted on her Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/thelma.ajero/media_set?set=a.132737673409181.24581.100000188488337&type=3

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