RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN/KOTA TV) - It is fitting that today, Native American Day, is also a time to remember a race that catapulted an Oglala Lakota into sports history books.
It was 55 years ago today, Oct. 14, 1964, when Pine Ridge’s Billy Mills earned a gold medal in the Tokyo Olympics by winning the 10,000-meter race.
It was reportedly one of the biggest upsets in Olympic history. Mills was not expected to make a big splash in a race that no non-European had won before. And to reinforce how significant this win was, Mills' achievement has yet to be repeated.
But Mills, with a time of 28:24.4 set a new Olympic record as he bet the favorite, Australia’s Ron Clarke.
Mills is a founder of Running Strong for American Indian Youth. The nonprofit helps Native Americans meet “their needs and create “opportunities for self-sufficiency and self-esteem in American Indian youth.”
Mills was one of the first inductees into the National Native American Hall of Fame.