Tag Archives: 1936 Berlin Olympics

“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)

“The Medals of Eternal Friendship” by Joboy Quintos

Back in college, I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read and re-read the heartwarming story of Sueo Oe 大江 季雄 and Shuhei Nishida 西田 修平. Oe and Nishida were world-class Japanese pole vaulters who competed in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Earle Meadows of the United States won gold with a 4.35m vault. The two Japanese cleared identical heights of 4.25m.

The following clip from Leni Riefenstahl’s Olympia provides a dramatic glimpse to the competition.

Fiber glass poles, soft landing mats and six meter vaults were but figments of the wildest imagination back in 1936. Vaulters clear with a straight pole and land feet first on saw dust – a testament to their uncanny athleticism and resolve.

These were days before the modern concept a fixed number of attempts, with ties being decided on countbacks. Meadows was the clear winner. Nishida and Oe, according to an article from the Waseda Weekly, “competed fiercely over five hours under night lighting.” The judges called an end to the competition by 9:00 PM, “telling the Japanese teams to determine among themselves who would be given second place.” Nishida won silver since he cleared 4.25m in his first try, Oe was awarded bronze since he vaulted over the same height with his second try.

Read: “Bonds of Friendship Tied Rivals- Waseda and Keio”

Click the screenshot above to view the Waseda University article on Nishida and Oe

The two vaulters were very good friends. When they arrived in Japan, they went to a jeweler and had the two medals cut in half. Both Nishida and Oe had equal halves of bronze and silver, aptly called the Medals of Eternal Friendship.

An Olympic Gold medal from the 1936 Berlin Olympics (Photo from Peter Kraus, B.H. Mayer’s IdentitySign GmbH and Wikimedia Commons)

Click this link for a photo of Nishida’s medal (from blog.livedoor.jp)

In this day and age where larger-than-life egos are a dime a dozen in professional sports, such displays of true sportsmanship are a rarity.

I first read about the famous Medal in my sophomore year. Back then, I was stuck in the doldrums. Despite the best of my efforts, I missed out on a finals appearance in UAAP 67, finishing a dismal 9th  (16.67s) in qualifying despite shaving off eight-hundredths of a second from my erstwhile PB. I trained quite hard that season and, needless to say, I felt crushed.

Hence, I turned to the exploits of past Olympic champions for solace. I found comfort in their feats of strength – in the case of Nishida and Oe, their friendship. Seven years since that day, I still get goosebumps each time I read about the Medal of Eternal Friendship. Now that I’m back on track, albeit alone, Olympic moments such as these have taken a new, deeper meaning.

P.S.

My wildest dream is to compete in the Olympics. I’m light years away from the “B'” standard, but it doesn’t hurt to think about lofty heights once in a while. As they say, reach for the stars and you’ll reach the moon. In that case, I’ll be just as happy with a Southeast Asian Games qualification!

Article by Joboy Quintos

Sources:

Waseda Weekly

Photo from Peter Kraus, B.H. Mayer’s IdentitySign GmbH/Wikimedia Commons, licensed under “Creative Commons Namensnennung-Weitergabe unter gleichen Bedingungen Deutschland”

 

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