South Dakota alumnus Chris Nilsen takes to the sport’s largest stage at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics held July 23 through Aug. 8. Nilsen represents Team USA in the pole vault, competing in qualifying on Saturday morning inside the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo. The top-12 men advance to the final held Tuesday evening in Japan.
Nilsen, a 2020 graduate of the University of South Dakota, took gold in the pole vault at the U.S. Olympic Trials to secure a spot with Team USA. He is a first-time Olympian, but Nilsen has donned the Team USA uniform before. He took gold at the 2019 Pan American Games and also sported the red, white and blue at the 2017 World Championships. Nilsen, a native of Kansas City, Missouri, continues to train post-collegiately in Vermillion with USD coach Derek Miles.
As a collegian, 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 men’s pole vault. His personal best of 19 feet, 6 ¼ inches (5.95m), came at the 2019 NCAA Outdoor Championships, breaking his own NCAA outdoor meet record. Nilsen topped world record-holder Mondo Duplantis in what would become the last NCAA Championships of his Coyote career (the COVID-19 pandemic canceled both the indoor and outdoor NCAA meets in 2020).
Friday, July 30
7:40 p.m. (CDT) – Men’s Pole Vault Qualifying
Tuesday, Aug. 3
5:20 a.m. (CDT) – Men’s Pole Vault Final
NBC owns the broadcast rights for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and will provide coverage of the Olympic Games across its network family. NBC will have dedicated streams for both of the pole vault competitions that are available with a television login (Qualifying Stream, Finals Stream). Select track and field coverage on Friday night will be shown on both NBC and USA. Track and field coverage on Tuesday morning will be shown on Peacock.
One Last Thing
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 and 2012 London. Miles earned bronze in the pole vault at the 2008 Olympic Games. Other Coyote Olympians include Greg Haydenluck in the bobsleigh (1988, 1992) and Eugene Vidal in the decathlon (1920).