Olympic gold medalist Billy Mills speaks at BHSU running camp

Author: BHSU Communications/Friday, July 24, 2015/Categories: 2015









           Olympic gold medalist Billy Mills addressed a room of student athletes at the 15th annual Black Hills State University Distance Running Camp Thursday. Mills, who won the gold medal for the 10,000-meter run during the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo, not only spoke about his athletic career, but encouraged students to make positive choices and earn good grades throughout their academic careers.




Black Hills State University had a surprise guest at a distance running camp Thursday.

Billy Mills, 1964 Olympic gold medalist, addressed area high school and BHSU student athletes in the Donald E. Young Sports &amp Fitness Center. Mills won the gold medal in the 10,000-meter run during the Tokyo Olympics. Originally from Pine Ridge, he is the only American to have received a gold medal in the 10,000-meter event.

Jeff Turning Heart, who is also an awarded distance runner from South Dakota, scheduled Mills to do a phone interview during the camp. Mills happened to be in Rapid City and decided to come to campus to speak.   

Students watched a short clip of Mills&rsquo victory in the 10,000-meter run, which Mills said is considered a major upset in Olympic history.

"That moment was a very magical time," said Mills of his Olympic win. "I felt as if I had wings on my feet. It still blows me away I achieved it.

Mills talked to students about his athletic career, but also other important factors of being a student athlete, including good grades, values and confidence.

"His message was unbelievable," said Scott Walkinshaw, head cross country coach at BHSU. "It wasn&rsquot just about running. He is such a humanitarian."

A student athlete in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Mills faced adversity as an American Indian student athlete. He talked to students about overcoming those challenges and setting his sights on an Olympic gold medal.

"It was the journey, not the destination that empowered me as an Olympian," Mills said. "The decisions I made in life and not just the talent I possessed is what choreographed my journey."

Mills encouraged students to study, earn academic scholarships and to also hold true to their values. During his training and even the 10,000-meter Olympic race, Mills said there were times he wanted to give up.  

"It&rsquos your virtues and values that give you confidence, direction and clarity of mind to make positive decisions," Mills said. "To keep from slowing down, I believed in the training I&rsquod been doing. I believed in it. Then I felt the tape come across my chest."

In addition to an Olympic gold medal, Mills has been awarded the NCAA&rsquos highest honor, the Theodore Roosevelt Award, as well as the Presidential Citizen&rsquos Medal for his work with American Indian youth. In 1983, Mills was the subject of the film "Running Brave," which tells his story of growing up on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and becoming one of the best distance runners in the world.

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