Duncan McNaughton moved with his family to BC when he was an infant, and received his schooling in Kelowna and Vancouver. He soon established himself as an outstanding all-round athlete, but chose to concentrate on the high jump. After a term at the University of British Columbia, he transferred to the University of Southern California. It was while attending school in California that he was asked to compete for Canada at the 1932 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. McNaughton is also a member of Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame.

In 1929, while a student at Vancouver’s King Edward High School, McNaughton won the individual championship at both the annual Vancouver & District Inter-high School Track Meet and the first British Columbia High School Olympiad. He captained and coached his basketball team which won the 1929 BC provincial championships.

He was a member of the Canadian team at the 1930 British Empire Games in Hamilton, Ontario. He competed in the high jump, but was disqualified for using an illegal jumping technique. McNaughton had never received any formal training in technique and did not realize his method was unacceptable.

In 1930, McNaughton transferred to the University of Southern California and made their track team. With the assistance of teammate Bob Van Osdel, he changed his style to the more conventional “western roll” and won the California State Championship, setting a new state intercollegiate record in the process.

McNaughton then won gold at the 1932 Olympic Games in Los Angeles in the high jump. After three grueling hours of jumping, all competitors were eliminated except McNaughton and Van Osdel, who battled for another hour for first place. McNaughton cleared the bar with a height of six feet five and 5/8 inches to win Canada’s only gold track and field medal.

In 1933, again jumping for the USC track team, McNaughton won at the US National Intercollegiate championships in Chicago.