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Mills discovered his running ability in high school and was determined that the Olympic games are where he would soar.
Mills discovered his running ability in high school and was determined that the Olympic games are where he would soar.
U.S. Marine Corps photo
October 12, 2017

IN HISTORY: Billy Mills Wins 10K Olympic Race in Tokyo

Fifty-two years ago, Billy Mills charged across a rain-soaked track and set a new record pace for the Olympic 10,000 meter race in Tokyo, Japan. Not only did Mills set a new record, but he also became the first American to win gold for the race, and still holds the title today.

Billy Mills was born in 1936 in Pine Ridge, South Dakota. Orphaned at a young age, Mills frequently recalls advice given to him by his late father, who told Mills he could “rise from broken wings and one day fly like an eagle.” Mills discovered his running ability in high school and was determined that the Olympic games are where he would soar.

Some credits Mills’ win to the heavy, soddened track. The 1964 Olympics was the last before all terrain tracks were utilized. A period of heavy rain had muddied the track, disabling many runners who were accustomed to ideal running conditions. During the final stretch of his race, Mills also made the decision to run on the outermost lane, which was not as sodden as the rest of the track.

Mills ran the 10K race in 28 minutes and 24 seconds, outpacing the previous record by over seven seconds. Only four other Americans have ranked highly in the 10,000 meter race: Max Truex  who placed 6th in 1960, Frank Shorter who placed 5th in 1972 and Galen Rupp  who placed 2nd in 2012.

You can watch Mills’ winning moment on the Running Strong website. To learn more about the Pine Ridge Reservation, visit the Black Hills Knowledge Network’s community profile.

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