Olympic Gold Medalist Arnie Robinson Jr. Dead at 72 After Contracting COVID-19

"Respect COVID for what it is. Once COVID comes and closes in, there's nothing you can do," the athlete's son Paul Robinson said

Arnie Robinson
Photo: Ernie Leyba/The Denver Post via Getty

Olympic gold medalist Arnie Robinson Jr. has died, USA Track and Field confirmed. He was 72.

The Hall of Famer died on December 1 after testing positive for COVID-19, according to a GoFundMe page set up by his son, Paul Robinson.

Speaking with San Diego ABC affiliate KGTV, Paul told the outlet that his father first fell ill in mid-November, suffering from "labored breathing, coughing." He then tested positive for COVID-19 but began to feel better.

But, "out of the blue, he struggled to take breaths," according to Paul, before he eventually died.

"You’re just in a state of shock and disbelief over how it happened," Paul added to the outlet. "Respect COVID for what it is. Once COVID comes and closes in, there’s nothing you can do."

Arnie Robinson
Walt Disney Television via Getty

Arnie resided in San Diego, California, where he attended Morse High School, San Diego Mesa College, and San Diego State University. Arnie won the long jump competition at the 1970 NCAA Men's Outdoor Track and Field Championships, per USA Track & Field.

In the years after he graduated college, the athlete won seven national long jump titles and was the top-ranked long jumper in the world at points in the '70s, winning an Olympic bronze medal in the long jump at the 1972 Olympics and a gold medal in 1976.

The Olympics, according to his son, were a highlight of his life. "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," Paul said.

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Later in life, after retiring from competing, Arnie went back to San Diego Mesa College to serve as a coach and a professor in Health and Exercise Science.

He overcame several health struggles over the years, including a serious car accident back in 2000, before he was later diagnosed with a Grade IV brain tumor — known as glioblastoma — and was given just months to live by doctors, according to USA Track & Field.

But Arnie beat his prognosis, and later retired from coaching and teaching in 2010 after 23 years. San Diego Mesa College honored the athlete and named their premier high school and college invitational meet in his honor.

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According to USA Track & Field, Arnie was inducted into the USATF National Track and Field Hall of Fame in 2000, as well as the San Diego Breitbard Hall of Fame in 1984. He additionally was named to the CCCAA Track and Field Hall of Fame in 2007.

Services for the Olympian are currently pending but contributions to the GoFundMe page in his honor "will seed an organization that will continue the work of supporting youth sports in the San Diego area."

"Arnie has provided a path for us to follow to success," the GoFundMe page says. "Let's maintain and improve that path by continuing his work of supporting youth sports."

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