US Olympic Team pole vaulter Chris Nilsen going for gold at 2024 Paris Games

Park Hill graduate won silver at Tokyo Olympics
US Track Trials Athletics
Posted at 10:29 PM, Apr 17, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-18 10:49:17-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Chris Nilsen finished second in the pole vault at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and is excited about the Paris games in 2024.

Nilsen expects more competition in this year's Olympics.

"The bar is going to be a lot higher, for sure," said Nilsen.

He's a pole vaulter so he's speaking literally. And he's speaking as an expert.

"I feel physically more ready than i did back in 2021," said Nilsen, a Park Hill High School graduate, of the 2020 Olympics that were held in the summer of 2021.

Nilsen cleared 5.97 meters in Tokyo, the equivalent of 19 feet, 7 inches.

He was bested only by Armand "Mondo" Duplantis, who is from Louisiana, but competes in the Olympics for Sweden.

Nilsen, a South Dakota University alum, says he's more mentally ready for the Olympics this time around.

"I was a wreck in April (of 2021)," he said. "I was losing sleep. I was losing weight. I got to the Olympic Trials and I was 10 pounds lighter and I was sleeping four or five hours a night from stress and anxiety alone. And now after 5 U.S. Championships and a lot of World Championship teams, I feel much more ready and much more comfortable."

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It was an odd year for the Olympics, both in the year, 2021, and in the run up to the games in Tokyo.

COVID-19 restrictions were still in place and made for empty stadiums.

"It felt more like a practice," said Nilsen. "Because there were no spectators. There was nothing you could do. You could barely leave your dormitory."

It's back to a normal Olympics in Paris, where Nilsen has competed a number of times.

"I'm just excited for my wife to be there," he said. "She was at home in Vermillion (South Dakota) and a bunch of my friends got together at a bar and watched me jump at the Olympics. I actually get to have someone in the crowd."

But first he must get there.

The United States Olympic Trials are in late June.

Five of the top eight pole vaulters in the world are from the United States.

"The U.S. Championship, in my opinion, is the the second-hardest championship in the world," said Nilsen.