One day, while in his university dormitory in the late 1950s, Billy Mills opened a window and set a chair against it. He then got up on the chair and mentally prepared himself to jump. As he stood, he thought about his difficult upbringing as an orphan and the racism he faced, even as an NCAA All-American runner. He simply wanted to leave all his troubles behind.

Suddenly, Mills felt a jolt of energy moving beneath his skin. That was when he heard “an unspoken word,” a sound that sounded like it was from his father’s voice. It was from that experience that Mills found his dream to heal his broken soul, a dream to win Olympic gold.

Olympic gold medalist Billy Mills speaks about his life’s story on this episode of Borne the Battle. He talks about his life’s many highs and lows. He also gives a detailed description of the thoughts running through his head as he ran the 10,000m in 1964. Topics in this episode also include:

The odds were stacked against Mills when he prepared to run the 10,000m in 1964. He faced Australian runner Ronald Clarke, a multiple world-record setter and favorite to win gold at the 1964 Olympics in the distances. Additionally, Mills, being borderline type 2 diabetic, went low blood sugar just 20 minutes before the race. With the U.S. never having won gold in the 10,000m, it seemed as if even history was against Billy Mills.

And yet, Mills won gold, set a world record, and is still the only American to ever win gold in the 10k event.

Following his Olympic success, Mills dedicated a large part of his life toward inspiring Native American youth to find their dreams. Mills helped found the non-profit, Running Strong for the American Indian Youth, an organization helping Native American people obtain basic necessities and creating opportunities for Native communities to achieve big dreams.

Mills started his Olympic journey with a broken soul. He left the 1964 Tokyo stadium with exactly what he needed to heal him.

Additional links:

By Calvin Wong is an intern with VA’s Digital Media Engagement team. He studies History as an undergraduate at the University of California, Davis.

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Published on Aug. 2, 2021

Estimated reading time is 2.5 min.

Views to date: 624

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