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Renaldo Nehemiah
Renaldo Nehemiah 1981.jpg
Nehemiah in 1981
Personal information
Born March 24, 1959 (1959-03-24) (age 62)
Newark, New Jersey
Sport Athletics
Event(s) Sprint, hurdles
Achievements and titles
Personal best(s) 100 m – 10.24 (1979)
200 m – 20.37 (1979)
110 mH – 12.93 (1981)
Renaldo Nehemiah
No. 83
Wide receiver
Personal information
Height: 6 ft 1 in (1.85 m) Weight: 177 lb (80 kg)
Career information
College: Maryland
Undrafted in 1982
No regular season or postseason appearances
Career history
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Games Played 40
Receptions 43
Receiving Yards 754
Receiving Touchdowns 4
Stats at
Stats at

Renaldo Nehemiah (born March 24, 1959) is a retired American track and field athlete who specialized in the 110 m hurdles. He was ranked number one in the world for four straight years, and is a former world record holder. Nehemiah is the first man to run the event in under 13 seconds. Nehemiah also played pro football in the National Football League (NFL) as a wide receiver for the San Francisco 49ers from 1982 to 1985, before returning to track and field athletics from 1986 to 1991. After retiring from competition, he has worked in sports management.

Track and field career

Nehemiah was nicknamed "Skeets" as a baby because he crawled along the floor so fast. The nickname followed him. He was the national junior champion in 1977, the same year he graduated from Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School in his hometown of Scotch Plains, New Jersey. Nehemiah's high school personal bests were 12.9 in the 110 meter hurdles and 35.8 in the 300 meter hurdles, so much faster than his competitors that his coach had him compete over 42 inch hurdles (collegiate height) and occasionally train over 45 inch hurdles. He was Track and Field News "High School Athlete of the Year" in 1977. The cover was noted for showing Nehemiah in a reflective mood rather than in action as most other T&FN covers. "I always look spaced out at meets, sort of nonchalant," Nehemiah told The New York Times in response. After graduating from Scotch Plains-Fanwood, Nehemiah attended the University of Maryland, where he won three NCAA titles including the 1978-9 NCAA Indoor Championships.

Nehemiah's sophomore year at UMD proved to be his breakout year. He broke the world record in the 110 meter hurdles twice in two weeks, running 13.16 and then 13.00. He won the 1979 IAAF World Cup and Pan-American Games titles, as well as the second of four U.S. national titles. At the 1979 Penn Relays, Nehemiah anchored UMD's shuttle hurdle relay, 4 × 400 meter relay, and 4 × 200 meter relay, and was named meet MVP. During the relays he recorded an unofficial split of 19.4 seconds in the 4-by-200 meter relay and a 44.3 second split in the 4 × 400 meter relay. Nehemiah described his 400-meter leg as follows:

So, I just ran harder and harder as the noise [of the crowd] got louder. And before I knew it, I could see (Villanova's) Tim Dale and the finish line about 20 meters in front of me. As I was really starting to be overwhelmed by the pain, I dug one more time with all I had, and surged past a fading Dale and believe I won by a couple of meters. [Afterwards] ... I told myself that I would not ever feel that type of pain again in my life. And I never ran another 400-meter again.

—Renaldo Nehemiah

The prohibitive favorite to win the 110-meter hurdles in the 1980 Summer Olympics, he was unable to compete due to a 64-nation boycott of the Games. Nehemiah received one of 461 Congressional Gold Medals created especially for the spurned athletes. At the 1981 Weltklasse meeting in Zürich, Switzerland, Nehemiah broke the world record for the 110 meter hurdles and became the first person to ever run the race in less than 13 seconds. In an interview, Nehemiah explained his race as less than ideal:

I was way out of control over the first hurdle. Then I floated over the second hurdle, and Greg [Foster] caught me going into the third hurdle. From there, I just ran as fast as I could. It was just one of those things where I was just determined to win. I knew that if I could stay out in front, I could make him make a mistake. He's six-foot-three, so if I'm getting crowded between hurdles, I know he's getting crowded trying to chase me. For the first three hurdles I had too much adrenaline; I couldn't control it, so I had to slow myself down. I knew that, technically, I was a better hurdler, faster between and over the hurdles. That's probably what got me ahead of him. It's a different race when you're chasing someone than when you're being chased.

—Renaldo Nehemiah
World Records
No. Event Time Date Year Place
1. 50 m H 6.36 Feb 3 1979 Edmonton
2. 55 m H 6.89 Jan 20 1979 New York
3. 110 m H 13.16 Apr 14 1979 San Jose
4. 110 m H 13.00 May 6 1979 Westwood
5. 50 yd H 5.98 Feb 13 1981 Toronto
6. 110 m H 12.93 Aug 19 1981 Zurich
7. 50 yd H 5.92 Jan 29 1982 Toronto
8. 60 yd H 6.82 Jan 30 1982 Dallas

Pat Connolly, who also coached sprinter Evelyn Ashford, was instrumental in reviving Nehemiah's track career after his short foray in football. Connolly is quoted as saying:

If he had concentrated on athletics he would have matched Harrison Dillard's achievement (double gold in the 100m and 110m hurdles). He clearly could have run under 9.9 in the 100.

—Pat Connolly

She also believed he may have been better suited for the 400 m hurdle event. She is on record as saying:

Based on a 300m I timed in practice, I believe he would still hold the world record in that event (400m hurdles), had he given it a serious try.

—Pat Connolly

Football career

Despite never playing football in college, Nehemiah worked out in 1982 for several NFL teams, including the San Francisco 49ers, Pittsburgh Steelers, Washington Redskins, Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles, New York Giants and New England Patriots; he signed with the 49ers. During his three years as a wide receiver he caught 43 passes for 754 yards, a 17.5 average, and four touchdowns. Although he was part of the Super Bowl winning team in the 1984 season, he did not play a major role. His football career is deemed by some to be a failure – many think it represents one of the most glaring mistakes ever made by 49ers head coach Bill Walsh – winning Nehemiah a comparison to the track star Jimmie "Oops" Hines, who won his infamous nickname for his inability to catch the ball. However, Nehemiah's presence on the field would often force opposing defenses into deep coverage. Nehemiah was deemed expendable in 1985 when the 49ers drafted Jerry Rice in the first round, and he returned to the track in 1986.

The Superstars

Nehemiah was the only four-time winner of The Superstars, a made-for-television decathlon-style competition broadcast by ABC Sports (and during the late 1980s, NBC Sports). He won the event in 1981, 1982, 1983 and 1986.


He is currently involved with Athletics Managers, a sports management and marketing agency. Clients he has represented have included Allen Johnson, Mark Crear,Justin Gatlin, Sha'Carri Richardson and 2012 400 meter Olympic Gold Medalist Kirani James.

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