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Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Native Billy Mills’ Gold Medal

In 1964, Billy Mills, Oglala Lakota (Sioux), earned a gold medal in the 10k race at the 1964 Olympics. This year, we celebrate the 50th anniversary of his well-deserved win. Billy had his fair share of misfortune as a child, becoming an orphan at only 12 years old, but he chose to stay positive and dedicated his life to running. He began setting records in high school and continued to pursue his passion at the University of Kansas where he received a track scholarship. After graduating, he respectfully served as an Officer in the U.S. Marine Corps.

At the time of Billy’s Olympic win, he set a world record of 28 minutes, 24.4 seconds and is still the only American to ever win a gold medal in the 10k event. It took Billy four years of strategic planning and training to win that gold. Just as Lakota culture taught him, Billy wanted to give back to the family and friends who had supported him on his long journey to the gold, so he assisted the founding of Running Strong for American Indian Youth. He is now the National Spokesperson for Running Strong and travels more than 300 days out of the year to encourage Native youth to live healthy lives and keep their heritage pride strong.

There have been several events throughout 2014 to celebrate Billy’s 10k Gold Medal and there is one more to go! The last event of the year will be a half marathon held on September 14, 2014 in Santa Fe, NM. This event is recognized as the Santa Fe Thunder Half Marathon and a portion of the proceeds will be donated to Running Strong. Enrolled tribal members can pay their entry fee at half price so if you’d like to participate, simply visit http://www.santafethunder.com/.

Photo: Billy Mills crosses the finish line, winning the gold medal at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.
Photo credit: Associated Press/The New York Times