Newark, New Jersey's Robert Nielsen arrived at Columbia already a champion, having won the state championship in the discus as a high school senior.
At Columbia, the championships kept coming.
A master fencer, Nielsen was one of the best foilists in the distinguished history of the Columbia fencing program. He made Columbia history during his sophomore year in 1949, becoming the first Columbia fencer to earn All-America status.
In 1950, the Columbia fencing team went 24-3 as Nielsen dueled his way to the top-winning the National championship in foil, another Columbia first.
Named captain of the 1951 squad, Nielsen led the Lions to their first-ever NCAA Fencing Championships, repeating as national champion in foil. That year the Lions dominated intercollegiate play with a 31-1 record, also earning the Lions their first IFA title.
Nielsen's success did not go unnoticed as he earned a spot on the Columbia College Today Dream Team for men's fencing following his collegiate run.
A three-time All-American, Nielsen continued his athletic exploits over his lifetime-competing as a senior fencer, and coaching high school athletics and local fencing clubs.
Post-college, Nielsen joined the Air Force and continued to fence, earning Texas and California Open titles and the New England Foil Championship in 1965. He remained an avid fencer, winning the Alabama State Foil Championship at the age of 61 and the United States Fencing Association Men's Foil Senior Event Championship on two occasions. Nielsen also dedicated time to coaching high school discus and shot put and his hometown fencing club.