'There goes Billy Mills!' - Tokyo 1964 Olympics


Category:  Sports

Via:  kavika  •  2 months ago  •  25 comments

By:   Indian Country Today

'There goes Billy Mills!' - Tokyo 1964 Olympics
The story of the Oglala Lakota runner is legendary and includes Olympic gold in historic fashion

S E E D E D   C O N T E N T

The story of the Oglala Lakota runner is legendary and includes Olympic gold in historic fashion Author: Kolby KickingWoman · Indian Country Today

Billy Mills, Lakota, breaks the tape in the 10,000-meter run to take gold in the 1964 Olympics. (Official Marine Corps Photo}

The story of the Oglala Lakota runner is legendary and includes Olympic gold in historic fashion

Kolby KickingWoman
Indian Country Today

"There goes Billy Mills! Billy Mills pouring on the steam, Billy Mills is really putting it on. Billy Mills has the lead for the United States heading toward the finish line. Billy Mills has just won the men's 10,000 meter event, the first time the United States has ever won this event!"

That was just one of many calls for the historic gold medal win for Billy Mills in the 10,000 meter race the last time the Olympics were held in Tokyo back in 1964. It was the first and only time an American has won the race.

Nearly 60 years after the amazing win, Mills, Oglala Lakota, joined the Indian Country Today newscast to look back on his life-changing achievement.

The former long-distance runner said it's the journey, not the destination that empowers an athlete or individual to do great things.

"So whether I won the gold or not, the journey empowered me and I'd love our young people to understand that you've got to find the passion. You've got to develop the skills to equal the passion, bring them together and magic can be created," Mills said. "And one or two of those magical things you do over your lifetime just may be looked upon as a miracle."

Through the lens of history, Mills' win is seen as a miracle he speaks of and one of the greatest Olympic upsets of all-time, as he was an unknown competitor to most entering the race.

Reminiscing on that historic run, Mills said he began to "hit the wall" with 110 meters left in the race as he started to feel a tingling sensation he attributes to having low blood sugar. Two things propelled him to the finish line; one was knowing the exact location of where his wife Patricia was sitting and the second was seeing another runner with an eagle on his singlet.

"It kind of reminded me of my dad when my mom died and my dad saying, 'Son, you have broken wings and it takes a dream to heal broken wings," he said.

Mills revealed that the dream he wrote down was to win the gold medal in the 10,000 meters when he was a junior in college.

As he made his final push, he remembers feeling the tape break across his chest and an Olympic official asking who he was. For a moment, he thought he miscounted the number of laps he had run.

"He [the official] says, 'New Olympic champion, is there anything we can do for you?'" Mills recalled. "And I said, 'I need my wife.'"

After the race, Mills went to find the runner with the eagle on his singlet only to learn that there was no other runner with such an image on their singlet, he perceived it himself. Mills said his training was based on Lakota values and he took the perception of the eagle, along with the pursuit of the gold medal, as all part of his journey to heal himself and the "broken wings" his father spoke of earlier in his life.

"I don't know how many Olympians have experienced, maybe similar circumstances, but mine was extremely sacred, just extremely emotional," he said.

His race time of 28:24.40 would have been good for 18th place in these games, but that says more about the advancement of modern sports and athletics than anything else.

The race at this year's games took place on July 30 and nearly had some late drama coming down the homestretch. Two runners from Uganda, Joshua Cheptegei and Jacob Kiplimo, who took second and third respectively, did their best to try and run down Selemon Barega of Ethiopia.

All three runners finished within one second of each other. United States runner Grant Fisher placed fifth, just over three seconds behind the gold medalist.

Naturally, Mills tuned into the race he will forever be known for and thought Fisher ran a smart race. He went on to say the race was exciting.

"In the humidity there was very difficult running, but I was thrilled with our young runner Fisher who got fifth," Mills said. "I actually thought he had a chance to pick up a medal and I thought he ran a very intelligent race."

Billy Mills is the only American to ever win the 10,000 meters Olympic race. He took home the gold medal in 1964. (Courtesy of Running Strong for American Indian Youth, File)

Mills, a veteran of the U.S. Marine Crops, is the co-founder of Running Strong for American Indian Youth nonprofit. In 1983, a movie based on the story of Billy Mills called "Running Brave '' was released. The movie is available to watch on YouTube.

Now in his 80s, Mills hopes to inspire Native youth the way Jim Thorpe was an inspiration to him. He finished his interview by reiterating it was the journey to the gold medal, not the medal itself, that means the most to him.

"The greatest gift my sports career has brought me was love of friendship, respect of other cultures, other societies, and believing together. We truly can create the horizon of humanity's future."


jrDiscussion - desc
Professor Principal
1  seeder  Kavika     2 months ago


The video of the race is a must watch....

Billy Mills overcame a lot of adversity in his life. 

I've met Billy on a number of occasions and it is always a pleasure to talk with him. 

Mills is a co-founder and national spokesperson of Running Strong for American Indian Youth, an organization that aims to help American Indian people meet their immediate survival needs while creating opportunities for self-sufficiency and self-esteem in American Indian youths. In 2014, in celebration of the 50th anniversary of his gold medal, Mills started Dreamstarter, a grant program to jump-start the dreams of American Indian youths.

Mills is the recipient of many distinguished athletic and humanitarian awards, including the 2015 President's Council Lifetime Achievement Award, NCAA's Theodore Roosevelt Award and 2012 Presidential Citizens Medal. He has been inducted into the National Distance Running Hall of Fame, the American Indian Athletic Hall of Fame and the United States Track & Field Hall of Fame.

Paula Bartholomew
Professor Guide
1.1  Paula Bartholomew  replied to  Kavika @1    2 months ago

A movie about him starring Robbie Benson came out many years ago.  Do you know what he thought of it?

Professor Principal
1.1.1  seeder  Kavika   replied to  Paula Bartholomew @1.1    2 months ago

This article pretty much describes what Benson thought of Billy and the feeling was mutual.

Raven Wing
Professor Principal
1.2  Raven Wing  replied to  Kavika @1    2 months ago

It is so wonderful to see how participating in the Olympics itself helped change Bill's life, much less, winning the gold medal.

His life's work in helping other young Native Americans live a better life, assisting those in need in all Native America Tribes to have the resources they need to survive, and to give their youth the sense of pride, courage and determination to achieve their own dreams as athletes, and possibly their own chance to reach the coveted Olympics.

He has given our youth much to learn from, and a legacy to be proud of.

Thank you Bill Mills.

Professor Principal
1.3  devangelical  replied to  Kavika @1    2 months ago

I got winded just watching that race. they'd be dragging me the last 9970 meters.

Professor Principal
1.3.1  seeder  Kavika   replied to  devangelical @1.3    2 months ago

At my age, driving 10,000 meters is a chore...LOL

Paula Bartholomew
Professor Guide
1.3.2  Paula Bartholomew  replied to  Kavika @1.3.1    2 months ago

Lucy tries out as a kicker for TSU (Necessary Roughness)

Player "That was 40 yards."

Coach "I don't even drive that far."

Professor Principal
2  JohnRussell    2 months ago

Great race. I can practically remember it.  The video helps. 

US track team has been struggling this olympics.  They could use Billy Mills right now. 

Professor Principal
3  JohnRussell    2 months ago

The video is somewhat confusing because near the end so many runners seem to come out of nowhere. What happened is that it was a long race and the leading 3 or 4 had lapped everybody else and that is why it looked so crowded coming out of the last turn. 

Professor Principal
3.1  seeder  Kavika   replied to  JohnRussell @3    2 months ago

Yes, a number of the runners were being lapped but that burst of speed and stunning last 100 meters was something to behold. 

As a side note, Gammodi and Mills became fast friends and then many years later Mills met Gammodi, daughter. 

Professor Principal
3.1.1  JohnRussell  replied to  Kavika @3.1    2 months ago
that burst of speed and stunning last 100 meters was something to behold. 


Trout Giggles
Professor Principal
4  Trout Giggles    2 months ago

Great story! Thanks for seeding it

Masters Quiet
5  Ronin2    2 months ago

Track must have been more rough and tumble back then. A lot of jostling and pushing going on. Especially the move by the lead runner to push Billy out wide and off stride. I realize it was to try and avoid a slower runner on the inside that was going to be lapped; but the push was a little excessive.

Good story and video. Thank you for seeding it. 

Professor Principal
5.1  seeder  Kavika   replied to  Ronin2 @5    2 months ago

That was a pretty strong push, amazing that Mills kept his balance and didn't take a tumble.

Raven Wing
Professor Principal
5.1.1  Raven Wing  replied to  Kavika @5.1    2 months ago

It looked like Mills paced himself very well, making sure he stayed up within the leaders, yet, not looking that challenging knowing he would need that great burst of energy for the finish. Great strategy and timing resulted in his successful run for the Gold, and for our people.

Just Jim NC TttH
Senior Principal
6  Just Jim NC TttH    2 months ago


Professor Principal
7  Ender    2 months ago

Ditto the others. Great article and story.

Spread those wings!

Sophomore Principal
8  Hallux    2 months ago

Runs like a Deer and Flies like an Eider. (translation needed)

Professor Principal
8.1  seeder  Kavika   replied to  Hallux @8    2 months ago

The deer represents in some NA cultures, a messenger and animal of power and a totem for intuition. 

An elder is one that provides wisdom and leadership and birds (flies) represent a special connection to the great mystery. 

Sophomore Principal
8.1.1  Hallux  replied to  Kavika @8.1    2 months ago

Not an elder, an eider ... jrSmiley_100_smiley_image.jpg


Professor Principal
8.1.2  seeder  Kavika   replied to  Hallux @8.1.1    2 months ago

LMAO, I didn't have my glasses on.

Paula Bartholomew
Professor Guide
8.1.3  Paula Bartholomew  replied to  Hallux @8.1.1    2 months ago

We all have our Emily Latilla moments.jrSmiley_9_smiley_image.gif

Professor Guide
9  evilgenius    2 months ago

Everyone I've ever talked to that talked to the man had nice things to say about him.

Raven Wing
Professor Principal
10  Raven Wing    2 months ago

I must say, from a personal view, that video looks very old for 1964, but, it does not seem like 1964 was that long ago. (big grin)

Professor Principal
10.1  seeder  Kavika   replied to  Raven Wing @10    2 months ago

When I did the math and saw that it was 57 years ago, I said to myself, self you're getting old. LOL


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