By MEREDITH DELISO, ABC News
(SAN DIEGO) — Arnie Robinson Jr., an Olympic gold medalist and a track and field Hall of Famer, died after testing positive for COVID-19, his family said. He was 72.
Robinson was “one of the greatest long jumpers in history,” USA Track & Field said in a statement on his Dec. 1 passing.
The lifelong San Diegan medaled in two Olympics in the long jump, taking silver in 1972 in Munich and gold in 1976 in Montreal.
Olympic Champion and Hall of Famer Arnie Robinson passed away Tuesday morning, December 1, at the age of 72.
— USATF (@usatf) December 2, 2020
He was the top-ranked long jumper in the world from 1976 to 1978, the organization said, with a career-best jump of 27 feet, 4 3/4 inches in 1976.
He won the first World Cup long jump championship in 1977, as well as seven national long jump titles.
The Olympics were a highlight, his son, Paul Robinson, told San Diego ABC affiliate KGTV.
“I think that’s one of the big things that drove him — was just wanting to achieve something very, very big, and setting it out there and making it happen,” he told the station this week.
A star at Morse High School in San Diego, Robinson attended San Diego Mesa College and San Diego State University, where he won the long jump competition at the 1970 NCAA Men’s Outdoor Track and Field Championships.
He won the USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships long jump title in 1971 and 1972, representing the U.S. Army in the latter. He also won a gold medal at the 1971 Pan American Games. From 1975 to ’78, he won four straight USA Outdoor Championships in the long jump.
After retiring from competition, Robinson returned to San Diego Mesa College as a coach in 1982. During his 25 years as head coach, his teams won 15 conference championships and one state championship. According to Mesa College, he also coached six state champion student-athletes, one of whom competed in the Olympic trials, and another — Felix Sanchez — who won a gold medal at the 2004 Olympics in Athens in the 400-meter hurdles.
He also served as a professor in health and exercise science until his retirement in 2010.
In 2013, Mesa College named an invitational meet after the former coach — the Arnie Robinson Invitational is held each April.
Robinson also served as USATF San Diego-Imperial Youth Track and Field chair, where he mentored thousands of athletes. He was inducted into the San Diego Breitbard Hall of Fame in 1984, the National Track and Field Hall of Fame in 2000 and the California Community College Athletic Association Track and Field Hall of Fame in 2007.
Robinson overcame several health-related struggles over the years, including a serious car accident in 2000 and a glioblastoma diagnosis in 2005.
His son told KGTV he believes Robinson contracted COVID-19 from a caregiver who had tested positive for the virus. He died one week after the diagnosis, his son said.
“You’re just in a state of shock and disbelief over how it happened,” Paul Robinson told the station. “Respect COVID for what it is. Once COVID comes, and it closes in, there’s nothing you can do.”
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