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Chris Nilsen
2018 NCAA Division I Indoor Track and Field Championships (38915942880).jpg
Personal information
Nationality American
Born January 13, 1998 (1998-01-13) (age 23)
Kansas City, Missouri
Height 6 feet 6 inches (1.98 m)
Sport Track and field
Event(s) High jump
Pole vault
College team University of South Dakota
Park Hill High School '16
Club Nike
Achievements and titles
Personal best(s)
Pole vault 5.97 m (19 ft 7 in) (2021)
Pole vault i 5.93 m (19 ft 5 in) (2020)
High jump i 2.00 m (6 ft 7 in) (2018)
High jump 1.96 m (6 ft 5 in) (2018)

Christopher Nilsen (born January 13, 1998) is an American athlete specialising in pole vault and high jump. He won the silver medal at the 2020 Summer Olympics in the pole vault event with a jump of 5.97 m.

High school

Nilsen graduated from Park Hill High School in Kansas City, Missouri. Nilsen was raised in hometown of Kansas City, Missouri. Nilsen set the United States high school record in the pole vault at the Missouri Class 5 sectional meet with a clearance of 18-4 3/4 (5.61 m).

Nilsen won 2016 Kansas Relays pole vault.


Nilsen attends University of South Dakota.

Nilsen is a 6-time NCAA Division I First Team All-American, and a 3 time NCAA Track and field Pole vault champion. Nilsen holds South Dakota Coyotes school records in the Pole vault indoor 5.80 m (19 ft 0 in) and outdoor 5.86 m (19 ft 3 in).

Nilsen set American & NACAC outdoor pole vault U-20 record 5.75 m (18 ft 10 in) and American & NACAC indoor pole vault U-20 record 5.70 m (18 ft 8 in).

Nilsen honored as 2017 Summit League Indoor Field Athlete of the Year and 2017 Summit League Outdoor Field Athlete of the Year. Nilsen honored on the Bowerman Watch List throughout the 2017 outdoor season.

Nilsen won 2018 Texas Relays clearing 5.80 m (19 ft 0 in), later battled Sam Kendricks at 2018 Drake Relays where he cleared 5.78 m (19 ft 0 in) and described the competition in Des Moines, Iowa to Sioux City Journal.

Nilsen placed second at 2019 NCAA Division I Indoor Track and Field Championships and won the pole vault title in an NCAA Men's Division I Outdoor Track and Field Championships meet record at 2019 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track and Field Championships.

Nilsen won Summit League student-athlete of the week honors for the 9th time in 2019. South Dakota’s Chris Nilsen captured the men’s most outstanding performer of the championship accolade after capturing his third consecutive league pole vault title with a meet record vault of 19-0.75 (5.81m).

Nilsen jumped an indoor personal best of 5.93 meters at the Devaney Sports Complex on February, 2020. This jump represented an Indoor NCAA Collegiate record, previously held by LSU Freshman, Mondo Duplantis.

Representing South Dakota Coyotes
School Year Summit League
Indoor track and field
NCAA Division 1
Indoor track and field
Summit League
Outdoor Track and Field
NCAA Division 1
Outdoor Track and Field
2017 Freshman Pole Vault 1st,
5.63 m (18 ft 6 in)
Pole Vault 1st,
5.70 m (18 ft 8 in)
Pole Vault 1st,
5.51 m (18 ft 1 in)
Pole Vault 3rd,
5.45 m (17 ft 11 in)
2018 Sophomore Pole Vault 2nd,
5.20 m (17 ft 1 in)
Pole Vault 2nd,
5.60 m (18 ft 4 in)
Pole Vault 1st,
5.80 m (19 ft 0 in)
Pole Vault 1st,
5.83 m (19 ft 2 in) CR
High Jump 6th,
2.00 m (6 ft 7 in)
High Jump 10th,
1.96 m (6 ft 5 in)
2019 Junior Pole Vault 1st,
5.75 m (18 ft 10 in)
Pole Vault 2nd,
5.73 m (18 ft 10 in)
Pole Vault 1st,
5.81 m (19 ft 1 in)
Pole Vault 1st,
5.95 m (19 ft 6 in) MR


Nilsen began competing for South Dakota Coyotes and in Vermillion, South Dakota under coach Derek Miles in Fall 2016.

In London at 2017 World Championships in Athletics, Nilsen cleared 5.60 m (18 ft 4 in) in the Pole Vault to place 13th.

Nilsen began his professional career as a Nike sponsored athlete in July, 2020. He is currently working with his agent Karen Locke.

On June 21, 2021, Nilsen was the only pole vaulter to clear 5.90 m at the 2020 Olympic Trials, cementing his first place win and getting him a spot on the Olympic team, alongside Sam Kendricks and KC Lightfoot. He won the silver medal at the Olympic games in Tokyo with a jump of 5.97 m, improving his personal best by two centimeters.

Year US National Championship Event Venue Place Time
2021 USA Olympic Trials Track and Field Championships Pole vault Hayward Field

Eugene, Oregon

1st 5.90 m (19 ft 4 in)
2018 2018 USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships Pole vault Drake Stadium (Drake University) 2nd 5.80 m (19 ft 0 in)
2017 2017 USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships Pole vault Hornet Stadium (Sacramento) 3rd 5.75 m (18 ft 10 in)
2016 USA Olympic Trials Track and Field Championships Pole vault Hayward Field
Eugene, Oregon
T-18th NH @ 5.40 m (17 ft 9 in)
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