Olympic gold medalist attended Mesa College

Olympic gold medalist attended Mesa College

Arnie Robinson receives his first STAR Award, with Vice President of Instuction Tim McGrath an Dean Dave Evans (left and right), for recognition in academic achievement and athletic excellence.

Clayton Fawcette

Here at Mesa College we have our own treasured athlete; he won at the college level, Pan-Am Games, World Cup and most importantly, the Olympics. This special man and athlete is Arnie Robinson.

Robinson is arguably the college’s most famous and decorated athlete. High praise considering that Mesa has produced seven players for the National Football League, one NFL coach, six Major League Baseball players and two others in track and field other than Robinson himself.

In the 1972 Olympics in Munich, Robinson won the bronze medal in the long jump. Robinson came back four years later to the 1976 Olympics in Montreal and had a remarkable jump of 27 feet, 4-3/4 inches, winning the gold medal for the long jump. From that point in the 1976 Olympics to 1978, Robinson was the top-ranked long jumper in the world.

The Olympic gold was by far his best achievement as an athlete, “but from there it went downhill. it was a four year, five second (process), meaning it takes four years to train (for the event) but only five seconds to jump,” said Robinson.

“It was the highest point of my career.”

Though the Olympics were the pinnacle of his career, Robinson also competed in the Pan-Am Games and the World Cup. In the 1971 Pan-Am Games, he placed first in the long jump while placing second in 1975. At the World Cup in 1977, Robinson again won gold in the
long jump.

Robinson’s many accomplishments at Mesa led to a scholarship to San Diego State University. In 1970, he won the NCAA title in the long jump with a mark of 25 feet 10 inches and was selected as an All-American in both his junior and senior seasons (1970 and 1971). Altogether, he won six National American Athletic Union (AAU) titles in the long jump while at SDSU.

While at Mesa, Robinson competed in “the long jump, triple jump and high jump. I did everything I could,” he said. Many of his high marks still rank among the colleges records, such as his long jump that still is second in college history and the triple jump, were he is still in the schools top 10.

Robinson retired from professional competitions in 1979, but became a coach for the Track and Field team at Mesa in 1982, eventually becoming the head coach in 1984. He held the position for 23 years.

Despite his own accomplishments, when asked what one of his proudest moments were, Robinson said, “when we won the state championship (1998).”

He also talked very highly of former Mesa Olympian Felix Sanchez, who also won a gold medal at the 2004 Olympics in Athens for the 400 meter hurdles. Beaming with pride Robinson said, “He was probably the most famous athlete I coached.”

After all of his accomplishments as an athlete, Arnie Robinson was inducted into the San Diego Breitbard Hall of Fame in 1985, and the USA Track and Field Hall of Fame in 2000. He was also inducted to the California Community College Cross Country and Track Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2005.

Dean Dave Evans called Robinson, “a great guy. I’ve had a 20 year relationship with Arnie.”

Robinson was seriously injured in an auto accident on August 19, 2000, but according to USATF website, he recovered to become coach of the Jumpers at the 2003 World Championships in France.

“Arnie has also had to deal with a brain tumor for the past 5-6 years (on top of the auto accident),” said Evans.

Though he has had to deal with these injuries and disease, he was in high spirits and was very insightful.

Currently Robinson is still a teacher at Mesa and enjoys talking about the sport he loves. If you see the Mesa legend in the hall or by the gym, make sure to say hi.

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