Duncan Gillis moved to BC in 1904 and became a member of Vancouver’s police force. He joined the Vancouver Athletic Club, and quickly established himself as a versatile athlete who was virtually unbeatable in the throwing and running events. In 1912, at the Olympic Games in Stockholm, Duncan was flag-bearer for the Canadian team. It was at these Games that he had the distinction of becoming the first BC athlete to win an individual Olympic medal, claiming a silver medal in the 16-lb hammer throw.

Reported to have defeated the legendary Jim Thorpe in competition, Gillis was acclaimed as “one of the world’s greatest all-around athletes” for his versatility. Between 1907-12, Gillis was numerous track and field trophies and medals in events including the 100 yards and 400 yards, discus, caber toss, shot put, tug-of-war, and hammer throw.

Gillis threw his best distance in the 16-lb shot put (40 feet six and 3/4 inches) at the 1909 BC championships held at Brockton Oval in Vancouver. He was the Canadian champion in the 16-lb hammer throw and 56-lb weight that same year. He also nabbed a silver in the discus.

In 1910, he set a Pacific Northwest Association record for the discus throwing 128 feet three and a half inches. His BC native hammer throw record set around the same time was unsurpassed until 1967. At the 1913 Canadian championships, Gillis was silver in both the 16-lb hammer throw and 16-lb shot put.

After the Olympic Games in 1912, Gillis turned to wrestling and won the Canadian heavyweight wrestling title in 1913. He turned professional in 1914 and in 1920 wrestled American Marin Plestina in Vancouver for the world title and a purse of $25,000. Gillis lost in a close match.