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San Diego's gold medal long jumper Arnie Robinson Jr. dies from COVID-19

Posted at 5:00 PM, Dec 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-07 23:42:48-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - Family members are mourning the COVID-related death of an Olympic gold medalist and lifelong San Diegan.

More than 4 decades ago, Arnie Robinson Jr. stood at the top of the Olympic podium.

"He was always so driven and so focused," said Arnie Robinson Jr.'s son, Paul

Paul says his father first started feeling sick in mid-November.

"Labored breathing, coughing," said Paul.

Robinson Jr. tested positive for coronavirus but after a week and a half, he started feeling better. A week later, on December 2, he was with a caregiver at this Skyline Hills home.

"Out of the blue, he struggled to take breaths," said Paul.

That day, Robinson Jr. passed away at his home at the age of 72.

"You’re just in a state of shock and disbelief over how it happened," said Paul.

It was disbelief and grief over a father and local sports legend.

A high school track star at Morse High, Robinson Jr. went to San Diego Mesa College and San Diego State University, before winning a bronze medal in the long jump at the 1972 Olympics and a gold medal at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal.

"I think that’s one of the things that drove him. Wanting to achieve something really, really big ... setting it out there and making it happen," said Paul.

That commitment was his calling card. He served in the Army and later, worked a track coach at Mesa College for three decades.

In 2004, he was diagnosed with brain cancer, a grade 4 glioblastoma and given six months to live. He went through several round of chemo and radiation.

"After some research, a complete 180 on his diet. Looking back on it now, he saw it as another challenge," said Paul.

Some 16 years later, he was in remission when he tested positive for COVID-19. Paul believes he contracted it from one of his caregivers, who also tested positive.

His message to others: wear masks and take every precaution.

"Respect COVID for what it is. Once COVID comes and closes in, there’s nothing you can do," said Paul.

Robinson Jr.'s family has started a Gofundme campaign in hopes of seeding projects related to youth sports.