Pittsburgh Superstars: Roger Kingdom, men’s track and field

PITTSBURGH — It’s a feat he did not once, but twice. University of Pittsburgh alum Roger Kingdom is one of only two men to win back-to-back Olympic gold medals in the 100-meter hurdles.

“I can sit back and I can remember every race that I’ve run, from start to finish, except for one. And that was the world record,” Kingdom told Channel 11 Sports Director Alby Oxenreiter.

Kingdom grew up in Vienna, Georgia, then went to Pitt and continued onto the international stage.

“For me to stand on that podium and have the national anthem played in my honor around the world was one of the greatest feelings you can ever experience,” Kingdom said.

Kingdom first struck gold in 1984 in Los Angeles. He did it again in 1988 in Soeul, South Korea.

Oxenreiter asked about where he kept his medals.

“My mother had those medals, and she said, ‘This is mine because of all the hard word of taking you back and forth to practice and dealing with your frustration and tears,’” Kingdom reflected. “So when I got the second medal she said, ‘I got a matching pair. I can make earrings.’”

Kingdom jumped his first hurdle in gym class when he was 9 years old.

“I was with a friend of mine, and we were coming out for class. And the phys ed teacher had the young ladies over in one corner teaching them how to hurldle,” Kingdom said. “I screamed the idea, ‘I could do that!’ So he called me up, he made me do it, and I was pretty decent at it. He was the middle school track coach and he told me, ‘Listen, come see me after school.’ And that was the beginning of it.”

Kingdom joined the middle school team without telling his mother.

“I wasn’t supposed to be running track or doing any extracurricular activities after school. My mom told us we couldn’t do any of that until we got in high school because there were too many of us. So, I snuck out and did it. I just told her I had detention, I had to stay after school, while at the same time I’m going to track practice. I didn’t get busted until I got too good and my name was in the paper.”

He had to quit track until he got to high school; There, he continued to improve and then went to Pitt, first as a football player, but he quickly learned track was his future.

“It was just the right for me to go to Pittsburgh, it was just a great fit,” Kingdom said. “I remember as a sophomore running up and down the streets of Pittsburgh, sometimes 1 or 2 o’clock in the morning. A lot of my friends and classmates were coming out of the pubs, and they were screaming at me, ‘Yo, what are you doing?’ But then those were the same people who after my first gold medal, they came back to me and congratulated me. They said, ‘Man, we thought you were crazy, but you know, I wish I had that commitment.’”

Kingdom said he still gets nervous, even now, watching the games.

“Fears, nerves, anxiety, adulations – all of the different emotions that you could come up with. I see it from every side, because I’ve experienced it from every side.”

But mostly he’s a USA fan — one with some very special Olympic memories.

“It’s truly your one moment in time, and I’m very very blessed I actually experienced that twice,” Kingdom said.

Kingdom also is only one of two men to ever win Olympic medals and a Lombardi Trophy; he is currently the speed and conditioning coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

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