This obituary is part of a series about people who died from the coronavirus pandemic. Read about others here.
Arnie Robinson Jr., who won gold in the long jump at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, died on December 1 at his home in San Diego. He was 72 years old.
His death was confirmed by his son Paul, who said the cause was complications from Covid-19.
After taking third place in the long jump at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, where he was wearing an armband against the Vietnam War when he received his bronze medal, Robinson aspired to win gold in Montreal four years later.
Mr Robinson, who had represented the Army when he qualified for the Munich Games, left the service the following year and started training in earnest. He ran up the steps at Balboa Stadium in San Diego until his legs ached while living on his wife, Cynthia’s income and his parents’ money. A chiropractor helped him get back into shape when abdominal problems put a strain on his training, he told the New York Times in 1976.
“It wasn’t a miracle, only the Lord above can do miracles,” he said. “But it was damn close.”
In 1976 in Montreal, the then 28-year-old Robinson received his Olympic gold and jumped 27 feet 4 inches in the first jump of the competition.
He won a total of seven national long jump titles and was the best-placed long jumper in the world from 1976 to 1978.
He retired from the competition in 1979 and became a coach at San Diego Mesa College in 1982, where he was also a professor of health and exercise sciences until he retired in 2010.
In a statement, USA Track & Field, the governing body for sport in the United States, described Mr. Robinson as “one of the greatest long jumpers in history”.
Recognition…John Dominis / The LIFE Image Collection via Getty Images
Arnie Paul Robinson Jr. was born in San Diego on April 7, 1948. His father, Arnie Robinson Sr., was an electrician and small business owner. His mother, Verneater Robinson, was a lifelong volunteer at Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church in San Diego.
A lifelong San Diego resident, Mr. Robinson attended Morse High School, San Diego Mesa College, and then San Diego State University, where he was the 1970 NCAA men’s long jump outdoor track and field champion.
His son Paul Robinson, 42, was born shortly before his father retired from the competition. In an interview, he said it took him several years to learn that his father was an Olympian – one with a gold medal, no less. It just didn’t show up, he said.
“I figured out he was an Olympic athlete when I was 6 or 7,” said Paul Robinson. “He told me about the Olympics, won the bronze and then the gold medal. I had no Idea. None of his friends brought it up. “
Mr Robinson was seriously injured in 2000 when a drunk driver hit his car. He recovered and coached the US athletics long jump team at the 2003 World Championships.
In 2005, Mr. Robinson learned he had glioblastoma, a form of brain tumor, and was told he had six months left, USA Track & Field said. He lived another 15 years.
Paul Robinson said his father felt uncomfortable with breathlessness and coughing in mid-November. He only tested positive for the coronavirus at his home in the Skyline Hills neighborhood of San Diego about a week before his death, his son said.
Mr. Robinson’s marriage to Cynthia Eley ended in divorce. In addition to his son, three sisters survive: Margaret Tucker, Carolyn Johnson and Arnette Lavergne. A younger brother, Michael Robinson, died in 2011.
He was inducted into the National Track of Field Hall of Fame in 2000, the Breitbard Hall of Fame of the San Diego Sports Association in 1984, and the Athletics Hall of Fame of the California Community College Athletic Association in 2007.
Later in life, when he was still training and teaching, Mr. Robinson found another passion, his son said: building houses.
“It started with a room addition in our grandmother’s house,” he said. “He learned about framing, installation, electrics and all aspects of house building. That eventually led him to build his own house, which he lived in for 30 years. “
“He was passionate about it,” he said, “just like athletics.”