TOKYO (GoYotes.com) —South Dakota alumnus Chris Nilsen captured an Olympic silver medal in the pole vault, clearing a new personal best of 19 feet, 7 inches, on Tuesday at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
The field remained in full-strength through 19-0 ¼ (5.80m) inside the Olympic Stadium, but it quickly dwindled to only four men after Nilsen cleared 19-3 (5.87m). After that height, the remaining vaulters joining Nilsen were 2016 Olympic gold medalist Thiago Braz, 2012 Olympic gold medalist Renaud Lavillenie and world record-holder Mondo Duplantis.
It would be only Nilsen and Duplantis to clear the next height of 19-5 (5.92m), turning the competition into a rematch of the 2019 NCAA Championships. Nilsen would be the first to clear 19-7 (5.97m) and in the process achieved a new personal best performance. However, it was Duplantis who came out the victor with a make of 19-9 (6.02m).
A 2020 graduate of the University of South Dakota, Nilsen medaled in his Olympic debut. Nilsen brings home the silver from Tokyo for Team USA. Nilsen’s silver was the highest pole vault finish by an American since 2004.
Nilsen was the gold medalist at the 2019 Pan American Games and also competed with Team USA at the 2017 World Championships. As a collegian at South Dakota, Nilsen was a three-time NCAA Champion, the 2020 USTFCCCA National Field Athlete of the Year and graduated with the NCAA indoor record in the pole vault. He vaulted a personal best of 19-6 ¼ (5.95m) at the 2019 NCAA Outdoor Championships, breaking his own meet record.
Nilsen is USD’s fourth-ever Olympian on record. He follows in the footsteps of his coach, Derek Miles, who qualified for three Olympics – 2004 Athens, 2008 Beijing, 2012 London. Miles earned the bronze in the pole vault at the 2008 Olympic Games.