Garfield MacDonald

Biographical information

RolesCompeted in Olympic Games
Full nameJames Abram Garfield•MacDonald
Used nameGarfield•MacDonald
Born8 August 1881 in Lower South River, Nova Scotia (CAN)
Died6 November 1951 in Camden, New Jersey (USA)
Measurements185 cm / 76 kg
AffiliationsNew Glasgow AAA, New Glasgow (CAN)
NOC Canada
Medals OG
Gold 0
Silver 1
Bronze 0
Total 1


The son of a farmer, Garfield MacDonald was named after United States President James Garfield, who had been assassinated just over a month prior to MacDonald’s birth in August 1881. He demonstrated his athletic prowess through rugby and hockey in high school, before moving to the United States to pursue a degree in dentistry at the University of Pennsylvania, which he obtained in 1905.

He remained active in sporting cricles after returning to Canada to set up his practice and had his best year in track and field athletics in 1908, beginning with his selection as a member of Canada’s delegation to that year’s Summer Olympics. At the Games his best event was the triple jump, where he came in third in the qualifying round with a distance of 46-4 (14.12), behind only Tim Ahearne of Great Britain (who set an Olympic record of 48-3¾) and Norway’s Edvard Larsen. These three were allowed an additional three jumps and Ahearne made the most of them by setting a world record of 48-11¼ (14.91) to win the gold medal. MacDonald jumped a personal best of 48-5¼ (14.76), enough to take silver and become the first Olympic medalist from the province of Nova Scotia. He was also joint-thirteenth in the high jump, competed in the long jump, and served as vice-president of the team’s organizing committee. In September of that year he set a Canadian record in the hop, step, and jump (equivalent to the triple jump) with a distance of 47-0½ (14.3), which lasted until 1930.

MacDonald continued his career in dentistry after the Games and remained athletically active in tennis and golf for his entire life. From 1909 through 1912 he was, along with George Stonewall Jackson, the Nova Scotia provincial tennis doubles champion. He returned to the United States in 1927 and transferred his dental practice to New Jersey, where he remained for the rest of his left. He has been inducted into the Canadian Olympic (1979), Nova Scotia Sports (1988), and Pictou County Sports (2001) Halls of Fame.

Personal Bests: HJ – 1.83 (1908); LJ – 6.28 (1908); TJ – 14.76 (1908).


Games Discipline (Sport) / Event NOC / Team Pos Medal As
1908 Summer Olympics Athletics CAN Garfield MacDonald
110 metres Hurdles, Men (Olympic) DNS
High Jump, Men (Olympic) =13
Long Jump, Men (Olympic) AC
Triple Jump, Men (Olympic) 2 Silver