Sports

Nine years late, Bella Vista grad Derek Miles to get Olympic bronze medal in pole vault

jschultz@sacbee.com

Derek Miles waves to the crowd after missing his final attempt at 5.80 meters and finishing fourth in pole vault on Aug. 22, 2008 in the Beijing Games.
Derek Miles waves to the crowd after missing his final attempt at 5.80 meters and finishing fourth in pole vault on Aug. 22, 2008 in the Beijing Games. Sacramento Bee file

Derek Miles cleared the bar nine years ago, and now he’ll receive his Olympic medal.

Miles, a Bella Vista High School graduate and current University of South Dakota assistant track and field coach, will be presented a bronze medal after a Ukrainian pole vaulter was disqualified from the 2008 Olympics for violating anti-doping rules, the school said Thursday.

At the Beijing Games, Miles came excruciatingly close to reaching the medal stand. It’s not that he couldn’t clear the height for third place – he and Denys Yurchenko both cleared 18 feet, 1 1/4 inches – but the Ukrainian did it in fewer attempts, edging Miles to earn bronze.

The ceremony for Miles will be held Monday, the university said in a statement. The International Olympic Committee announced in November that re-analysis of Yurchenko’s samples from 2008 resulted in a positive test for a banned substance.

In a November interview with the Argus Leader (Sioux Falls, S.D.), Miles discussed how not receiving the medal in 2008 cost him a $30,000 bonus and a raise from Nike.

“Honestly, I would have spent twice that much to get a medal so that doesn’t bother,” said Miles, the three-time Olympian who finished seventh in 2004 and competed in 2012 but failed to reach the finals. “But it would have been nice to have that included in my career.”

Miles, South Dakota U.S. Sen. John Thune and U.S. Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun are set to speak at the event Monday. Thune in March wrote to the IOC president and called on the committee to take all appropriate measures to award a bronze medal to Miles.

“It’s an unbelievable honor to play a small part in helping Derek receive the overdue recognition he deserves,” Thune said in a statement. “While nothing can replace standing on the podium in Beijing, I think Derek would agree that getting to share this moment with friends, family, and the students at USD will be a memory not soon forgotten.”

Miles lives in Tea, S.D., and has been with the South Dakota track and field program for 14 years. He is a three-time United States national champion.

“The more I think about it, the cool thing about this is what it would mean for the people close to me,” Miles said to the Argus Leader last fall about the possibility of receiving the medal. “A lot of people went through a lot – my wife, my parents, Lucky Huber, my agents and a bunch of others – with me throughout my career. That will be the fun part now. Maybe we’ll have a little mini-celebration at home.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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