Elite Athlete Spotlight - Khadevis Robinson
On June 30, 2008, Khadevis Robinson stepped to the starting line of the men’s 800m at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials ready to make back-to-back trips to the Olympic Games. As the race got underway it played out perfectly for the first 700 meters as the Fort Worth Texas native led the field.
Robinson wanted to win, but he had to finish in the top-three to secure an Olympic A standard and flight to Beijing. With 100 meters remaining, Robinson’s dream started to fall apart. Nick Symmonds catapulted to take the lead, and no one could catch the Oregon Track Club runner.
University of Oregon sophomore Andrew Wheating surprised himself and everyone else with a burst of speed to take second. The chance to represent Team USA would come down to Robinson and Christian Smith. Robinson and Smith were so close in the last 10 meters they were literally touching. The contact broke both runner’s strides resulting in a dramatic dive across the finish line.
Robinson’s eyes scurried to find the results board -1:45.53. Next, he gazed at Smith’s name - 1:45.47. His dream was crushed. The thought of retirement crossed his mind more than once walking off Hayward Field. Then, something unexpected happened.
“People who I have never met in my life came to me and said, ‘Man, Khadevis, we’re really sorry. We wish you had made it. You really inspire us,’” Robinson said. “I had no clue. I had no clue all these people watched me. I had no clue that I inspired all these people. Most of them were not involved in track and field -- that’s what really shocked me.
“If I made the [2008 Olympic] team, those people would have never had the courage to come up to me. They would have seen me as this great athlete on a pedestal. When they saw I didn’t make it -- and obviously that I was disappointed -- they felt comfortable enough to come up and talk to me. That meant the world to me.”
The support he received from fans helped to quickly dispel the notion of retirement. He continued to train. He would rebound to win his fourth USA Indoor Championship title in 2009. He would claim three second place finishes at the USA Outdoor Championships from 2009 to 2012. He secured spots on the 2009 and 2011 World Championship teams, and in 2012, at the age of 35, he made his second Olympic team.
With the end of his career as an elite athlete on the horizon, Robinson wanted another outlet to inspire others and turned to coaching. His first coaching experience came at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas in the fall of 2011, but he worked individually with athletes for years before that point. His first position with Rebels was head women’s cross country and assistant track and field coach.
While Robinson enjoyed every aspect of living and coaching in Las Vegas, he was eventually presented with the opportunity to take the same position at Ohio State University, leaving him with the the toughest choice of his life. The decision had serious implications. If Khadevis accepted the position he would uproot his wife, Stephanie, and their two sons, 4-year-old Zion and 1-year-old Ishmael.
Three reasons pushed Robinson towards Columbus, Ohio. Robinson wanted to move to a bigger conference for the the chance to recruit and coach the nation’s best athletes. He wanted to take on a challenge, and he wanted to push himself out of his comfort zone.
“Good is the enemy of great,” Robinson said. “I could have stayed [in Las Vegas] and been successful and started to get comfortable. But, that’s when you start to have problems. I needed the challenge. I needed to know if I could do it on a big level.
Robinson drew inspiration for his move from the biblical tales of Abraham and Moses who left a lifes of comfort to endure hardship before reaping the rewards.
“The stories weren’t always good. It was scary. It was hard,” Robinson said of the parables. “It wasn’t all rosy. It was tough and it was difficult.”
Robinson is now the women’s head cross country and assistant track and field coach at Ohio State, but he aspires for more. This week he is coaching on the same track that brought him joy and pain. The Buckeyes have seven athletes competing at the NCAAs.
Of course Robinson would like to be a head coach one day, but for a dreamer like Robinson, he doesn’t stop there.
But being a head coach will not allow him to rest, he will continue to push. Robinson said from there he might venture into politics. With Robinson anything is possible.