Going for Gold! - Athlete with NE Iowa ties is Olympian

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Olympian Kelsey Robinson is shown in action in the final round of a match against China in the 2015 Volleyball World Grand Prix.

Kelsey Robinson is shown with her maternal grandparents, John and Ericka Moyna, Elkader, and her paternal grandfather, David Robinson, Central City.

By Pam Reinig

Register Editor


An Illinois woman with strong ties to Northeast Iowa will be one of 555 athletes representing the United States at the 2016 Olympic games.

Kelsey Robinson, granddaughter of John and Ericka Moyna, Elkader, is a member of the U.S. Women’s Volleyball team. 

“I don’t know how to tell you what it means to have a granddaughter in the Olympics,” Ericka said. “I’m so proud and so happy for her. This was one of her dreams. It’s very exciting for all of us.”

The Moynas have been following Kelsey’s sports career for years. They traveled frequently to Illinois when she played club volleyball there and made it to several Big 10 games when Kelsey was a University of Nebraska standout. When she played professionally in Italy last year, they watched many of her matches on their computer.

“I couldn’t understand what (the announcers) were saying but, of course, I recognized her name,” Ericka said, “and I could really tell by her expression if things were going well or not.”

The couple even made volleyball a part of their recent 60th wedding anniversary. Most of their clan gathered in June in Long Beach, CA, where the FIVB (volleyball federation) Grand Prix was played.

“It was exciting to have so much of the family together,” Ericka said. “We did different things during the day, and then we had dinner really early, like 5, so we could start watching her games at 7.”

The team won all three matches that weekend and Kelsey was named “FIVB Player of the Week.”

John and Ericka will be watching Kelsey’s Olympic games from the comfort of their living room—and they plan on sharing their pride and joy with friends and relatives.

“We’re going to have an Olympic party at our house,” said Ericka, “so she’ll have a cheering section here and there.” 

Several members of Kelsey’s immediate family will be in Rio, including her parents, Mike and Susan (Moyna) Robinson of Bartlett, IL; her sister, Caitlin, and Caitlin’s fiancé; her paternal grandfather, Dr. David Robinson of Central City; a couple cousins; and two aunts.

Standing 6’2’’ in her stocking feet, Kelsey spent her middle school years playing both basketball and volleyball. 

“After her freshmen year in high school, she realized she would have to choose only one sport if she wanted to continue to play in college,” Susan said. “Her high school team had just won the state volleyball tournament and it was then that she decided to focus on volleyball.”

Kelsey’s collegiate career started at the University of Tennessee where, during her sophomore year, she helped UT win the SEC conference title and was named SEC Player of the Year and second team All American. She eventually transferred to the University of Nebraska, where her team finished second in a highly competitive Big Ten conference and where she was named Big Ten Player of the Year.

After graduating from Nebraska where she earned a degree in broadcast journalism, Kelsey secured a spot on the Women’s USA National Team. When she isn’t playing with them, she plays professionally, last year in Italy and next year in China.

Despite the accolades she’s earned along the way, becoming an Olympic athlete is something Kelsey wasn’t sure was in the cards for her, especially considering the depth of talent on the women’s team.

“It’s a lifelong dream,” she said. “It’s an honor to represent not my country but my family, friends and every person who helped me get where I am today.”

And for her mother, Susan, who grew up in Elkader hiking to Holstein Dip and rafting on the Turkey River, it’s been an equally incredible journey.

“I never thought I would be going to the Olympics in Rio to watch my daughter play volleyball, “ she said. “Kelsey never took the easy road, but in the end it was the struggle and the determination she had to get to the next level that made it possible.  It’s going to be such a great experience to see her represent the USA playing the sport she loves.”

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