VERMILLION, S.D. (KELO) — Friday brought a celebration in Vermillion to welcome home Olympic silver medalist and University of South Dakota graduate Chris Nilsen. But Nilsen didn’t anticipate this homecoming.
“I was never expecting this many people nor the outcome and everybody being so loud and excited for me,” Nilsen said.
17-year-old Dylan Paauw of Brandon was here for the celebration. He’s a pole vaulter, too.
“I was refreshing my Google page looking at the results live, and then I came here and you see him, and he’s just a real person … legendary people are just normal people, and it’s kind of inspiring,” Paauw said.
That inspiration can go beyond track and field. Or even athletics.
“I think it helps all of our student-athletes and hopefully even just the people in South Dakota realize that they can reach any goal,” said Lucky Huber, head track and field coach at USD.
Coming home with Nilsen is his Olympic silver medal.
“It’s about as good as it can feel,” Nilsen said. “The, I think the experience is what I’m going to remember more than the actual medal itself, but it’s just kind of a good reminder. Couldn’t really ask for a better situation- personal best at the Olympics.”
Now, the Olympics in Paris are just three years away.
“He’s only going to get a little bit faster, a little bit more strong as he goes,” USD pole vaulting coach Derek Miles said. “So I think in three years’ time if we can stay healthy and we avoid injury, I’d like to see what that meet looks like.”
But for now, there’s time to revel in what happened this summer.
“I just kind of started out as like a small-town kid playing soccer in my backyard with my grandma, and now got an Olympic medal, so it can happen to anyone,” Nilsen said.