1980s1984 L A OlympicsABCOlympicsOther SportsRunningTrack And Field

Olympics 1984 Los Angeles – ABC Profile – Billy Mills – 1968 Mens 10K Gold Medalist

DOG ASIDE:

William Mervin “Billy” Mills, also known as Makata Taka Hela (born June 30, 1938)…is the second Native American (after Jim Thorpe) to win an Olympic gold medal….as he accomplished this feat in the 10,000 meter run (6.2 mi) at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics….becoming the only person from the Western hemisphere to win the Olympic gold in this event. His 1964 victory is considered one of the greatest Olympic upsets in history.  A former United States Marine, Billy Mills is a member of the Oglala Lakota (Sioux) Tribe.

Billy Mills qualified for the 1964 Summer Olympics on the U.S. Track and Field Team in the 10,000 meter and the marathon. The favorite in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics for the 10,000 m was Ron Clarke of Australia….who held the world record. The runners expected to challenge him were defending champion Pyotr Bolotnikov of the Soviet Union and Murray Halberg of New Zealand….who had won the 5,000 m in 1960 Summer Olympics…as Mills was a virtual unknown….for he had finished second in the U.S. Olympic trials.  His time in the preliminaries was a full minute slower than Clarke’s….who set the tone of their race….as his tactic of surging every other lap appeared to be working. Halfway through the race, only four runners were still with Clarke….Mohammed Gammoudi of Tunisia, Mamo Wolde of Ethiopia, Kokichi Tsuburaya of Japan, and Mills.  Tsuburaya, the local favorite, lost contact first….then Wolde….and with two laps to go….only two runners were still with Clarke.  On paper, it seemed to be Clarke’s race.  He had run a world record time of 28:15.6 while neither Gammoudi nor Mills had ever run under 29 minutes.  Mills and Clarke were running together with Gammoudi right behind as they entered the final lap. They were lapping other runners and, down the backstretch, Clarke was boxed in. He pushed Mills once, then again. Then Gammoudi pushed them both and surged into the lead as they rounded the final curve. Clarke recovered and began chasing Gammoudi while Mills appeared to be too far back to be in contention. Clarke failed to catch Gammoudi, but Mills pulled out to lane 4 and sprinted past them both. His winning time of 28:24.4 was almost 50 seconds faster than he had run before and set a new Olympic record for the event. No American had ever before won the 10,000 m, nor has any other American come seriously close until Galen Rupp took the silver at the 2012 London Olympics.

American television viewers were able to hear the surprise and drama as NBC expert analyst Dick Bank screamed, “Look at Mills, look at Mills” over the more sedate play-by-play announcer Bud Palmer….who seemed to miss what was unfolding….and for bringing that drama to the coverage, Bank was fired.  After the race, Mills talked with Clarke and asked if he was straining as hard as he could on the final straightaway to the finish….to which Clarke replied, “Yes”….for Mills has stated that he tried to be relaxed during his final kick to the finish line and felt that helped him to pass both Gammoudi and Clarke. 

 

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