Unless you are an avid Olympics fan you have probably never heard of Billy Mills. Mills won the Gold Medal in the 10,000 meter run at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics which is considered to the one of the greatest upsets in Olympic history. Mills was basically an unknown having finished second in the U.S. Olympic trials.
In the final lap of the 10,000 meter run, Mills overcame Olympic favorite, Ron Clarke of Australia, who held the world record in the event, and Mohammed Gammoudi of Tunisia after it appeared he was too far back to be in contention. He pulled away and sprinted out of nowhere and passed them both winning with a time of 28:24.4 which was almost 50 seconds faster than he had ran before and set a new Olympic record for the event. It was the first time that an American had ever won the gold medal.
Gammoudi was quoted saying of Mills: “The arrow shot from the heavens”.
Mills was the second Native American to win an Olympic gold medal.
Mills was raised on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in Pine Ridge, South Dakota. His given name, Makata Taka Hela is said to mean “love your country”. He was orphaned when he was twelve years old. He took up running while attending Haskell Institute in Lawrence, Kansas.
Today Mills works with his charity, Running Strong for American Indian Youth, and speaks to groups throughout the world about the lessons he has learned from his incredible life.