Sunday, August 31, 2008

My Olympic Moment with Billy Mills

Who is Billy Mills?

The man won the Olympic gold medal in the 10,000 meters in 1964. A movie, "Running Brave," was made about him.

When I was about the same age as some of the Chinese Olympic gymnasts, I was in the student leadership group for my school. We got to go to a couple of events and workshops with motivational speakers and teamwork exercises. Our advisor told us about an upcoming assembly where an Olympic gold medalist would speak to us. I hadn't heard of Billy Mills at that time, and I hadn't yet become a runner, but it still seemed cool that a gold-medal-winning runner would speak to us.

We attended the conference, and Mills told us of his upbringing as a part-Sioux American Indian and his experiences as an Olympian. He signed autographs - I still have that piece of paper at my parents' house. I don't remember a lot more details from that meeting, but I remember him describing his thoughts/feelings as he neared the end of his 10K race:

I won! I won! I won!
Looking at the video in this post, I am reminded that he first thought, "I can win! I can win!" Later, he took his positivity up another notch. Now I also remember Mills playing a clip of the announcer going bananas at the end of the race.

To call Mills' victory an "upset" would be a major understatement. From what I've read or watched recently, it's been said not a single reporter asked Mills a question in the days leading up to the race. He wasn't on anyone's radar.

But the rest is history.

If my memory serves me, when our group of students got back to school after the conference (which took place in a town about 40 miles away), I told one of my teachers we met an Olympic gold medalist. I didn't say the name initially because I didn't think it would be a name she would recognize. She asked who the speaker was, and, when I said "Billy Mills," she said, "Billy Mills! I think he is a real American hero."

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