A former University of South Dakota track and field athlete is an Olympic medalist. But it’s for an event he competed in nine years ago.
A conference room is packed with USD track and field athletes and fans of university athletics. Then the room falls silent when US Senator John Thune and Derek Miles take their seats by the podium.
Derek Miles has worked as an assistant track and field coach at USD for the past 14 years. During that time he was a three time U.S. National Champion pole vaulter and attended three Olympics. The closest he ever came to an Olympic medal was in Beijing in 2008. Miles narrowly finished in fourth behind a Ukrainian pole vaulter.
However the International Olympic Committee recently stripped several athletes of medals after retesting for banned substances. This revealed that Miles was indeed the bronze medalist in 2008. Scott Black is the CEO of the US Olympic Committee.
“Derek should have received this Olympic medal nine years ago. He should have stood on the medal stand alongside his fellow medalists. And while we can’t go back to the 2008 Olympic Games, we can right that wrong today,” says Black.
Miles accepted the award from Senator Thune and the Olympic committee. He says he took some time to reflect on how he got here.
“I just kept thinking man I must be just the luckiest guy in the world that all these cards kind of fell into place. And then it kind of hit me and it had nothing to do with luck, it had to do with just surrounding myself with just amazing people. And to me that’s the thing that it’s all about. Any Olympian, anyone who’s had success in life is surrounded by amazing people and 95% of the reason I had any success in this sport is from the people in this room,” says Miles.
Miles also thanked Senator Thune for getting the process going for reallocating the medal. Miles is now one of only a handful of South Dakotans with Olympic medals.