American Football Database
Renaldo Nehemiah
Date of birth: (1959-03-24) March 24, 1959 (age 63)
Place of birth: Newark, New Jersey[1]
Career information
Position(s): Wide receiver
Height: 6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)
College: University of Maryland
 As player:
1982-1984 San Francisco 49ers
Playing stats at

Renaldo Nehemiah (born March 24, 1959) is an American athlete who dominated the 110 m hurdle event from 1978 until 1981. He was the world record holder and the first man to run the high hurdles in under 13 seconds. He was ranked number one in the world for four straight years.

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.

Nehemiah was also known by the nickname "Skeets".

Track and field career

Nehemiah 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.[2] 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.[3] After graduating from Scotch Plains-Fanwood, Nehemiah attended the University of Maryland, where he won three NCAA titles (two indoor).

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, 4x400 meter relay, and 4x200 meter relay, and was named meet MVP.[4] 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 4x400 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[5]

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, spearheaded by the United States. 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[6]
World Records
No. Event Time Date Year Place
1. 50 m H 6.36 3rd Feb 1979 Edmonton
2. 55 m H 6.89 20th Jan 1979 New York
3. 110 m H 13.16 14th Apr 1979 San Jose
4. 110 m H 13.00 6 May 1979 Westwood
5. 50 yd H 5.98 1981
6. 110 m H 12.93 19th Aug 1981 Zurich
7. 50 yd H 5.92 1982
8. 60 yd H 6.82 30th Jan 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[7]

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[8]

Career highlights for 110 m hurdles

Personal Bests
No. Event Time Date Venue
1. 50 m H 6.36 February 3, 1979 Edmonton
2. 55 m H 6.89 January 20, 1979 New York
3. 110 m H 12.93 August 19, 1981 Zurich
Year Rank Mark Meets
1978 1 13.23 2)NCAA, 1)AAU, 1)Weltklasse
1979 1 13.00 WR 1)NCAA, 1)AAU, 1)Pan Am, 2)Weltklasse, 1)W Cup
1980 1 13.21 1)TAC, 1)Oly Trials, 1)Coke, 1)Weltklasse
1981 1 12.93 WR 1)Weltklasse
1982 indoor season only
1982-85 football sabbatical
1986 13.48
1987 13.71
1988 10 13.43 (dnf)Oly Trials, 6)Weltklasse
1989 4 13.20
1990 6 13.22
1991 4 13.19 3)TAC, 1)Weltklasse, 3)GP Final

Football career

Nehemiah worked out in 1982 for several NFL teams, including the Pittsburgh Steelers and the San Francisco 49ers and ended up signing with the 49ers in a blaze of publicity and high expectations. During his three years as a wide receiver he caught 43 passes for 754 yards, a 17.5 average, and 4 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, a strong point of Nehemiah was that he would draw the defense into deep coverage whenever he was on the field. He would often be guarded with deep or double coverage, thereby demonstrating a success of Nehemiah. Nehemiah was made expendable in 1985 when the 49ers drafted Jerry Rice in the first round, and he returned to the track in 1986. He managed to achieve world rankings four more times before retiring from athletics after the 1991 season.

The Superstars

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


He is currently involved with Octagon Sports Marketing, a sports management and marketing agency, as the Director of Track & Field. He has represented many of the world's best hurdlers and sprinters including Allen Johnson, Mark Crear and Justin Gatlin and most recently 2012 400 meter Gold Medalist Kirani James.


  1. "USATF Hall of Fame", USATF Hall of Fame, Accessed May 23, 2010
  2. "SPORTS PEOPLE; Nehemiah Wins One", The New York Times, November 10, 1982. Accessed January 3, 2008.
  3. "Renaldo Nehemiah: Master of the Art Form", Black Athlete Sports Network, Feb 8 2009, Accessed May 23, 2010
  4. "Renaldo Nehemiah: Master of the Art Form", Black Athlete Sports Network, Feb 8 2009, Accessed May 23, 2010
  5. "Memories from Penn" compiled by Walt Murphy, Eastern Track News and Results Service, June 2, 2003, Accessed March 1st, 2012
  6. "Renaldo Nehemiah: Master of the Art Form", Black Athlete Sports Network, Feb 8 2009, Accessed May 23, 2010
  7. "Pat Connolly: on Evelyn, Coaching and athletics today" by Jonathan Mulkeen, Athletics Weekly website editor, March 2005, Accessed March 1st, 2012
  8. "Pat Connolly: on Evelyn, Coaching and athletics today" by Jonathan Mulkeen, Athletics Weekly website editor, March 2005, Accessed March 1st, 2012

External links

Preceded by
File:Flag of Cuba.svg Alejandro Casañas
Men's 110m Hurdles World Record Holder
April 14, 1979 — August 16, 1989
Succeeded by
United States Roger Kingdom
Preceded by
Phil Ford
ACC Athlete of the Year
Succeeded by
Julie Shea
Sporting positions
Preceded by
United States Greg Foster
Men's 110m Hurdles Best Year Performance
1979 — 1981
Succeeded by
United States Greg Foster