Olympics

Olympic legend Billy Mills starts writing monthly newsletter in run-up to 2020 Games

by Ed Odeven

Staff Writer

The excitement that marked the official one-year countdown to the 2020 Tokyo Games is real. A vivid expression of human joy that exists in locales near and far.

Not surprisingly, Olympic running legend Billy Mills is one of the most excited individuals.

Mills marked the occasion of the one-year countdown earlier this week by posting a message to his legion of fans and admirers on Facebook, informing them of a new endeavor: a free monthly newsletter.

“Trying my hand at writing,” wrote Mills, the men’s 10,000-meter gold medalist at the 1964 Tokyo Games. “A new story every month (until) the opening ceremonies at Tokyo 2020. Hope you all can read some of them! Road to Tokyo!”

In a section entitled “A Bumpy Start,” Mills, who was born on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, recalled his journey to Japan and the drama that involved the arrival of his wife and many others.

“I was a member of the 1964 USA Olympic team participating in the 10,000-meter run and the marathon,” Mills, now 81, wrote. “I arrived October 1, 1964 on a plane that carried most of the USA track and field team, as well as coaches and support staff. (My wife) Patricia arrived a few days later. Her plane, carrying several spouses of the athletes and coaching staff, provided the first challenge and test of our nerves before the Olympics even began.

“I was at the Tokyo airport with several athletes and coaches waiting for our spouses to arrive. We were informed that their plane had blown out a tire upon leaving Anchorage, Alaska for Tokyo! There was concern if the landing gear would lower and if there would be a problem landing with a blown out tire. Foam was being laid on the runway as a precaution.

“As I watched the final approach, those on board experienced the pilot and the crew make a safe, heroic landing. Perhaps to the pilot it was a routine day at the office! Patricia never looked so beautiful as I watched her deplane, casually walking down the ramp. We embraced; we were together and I thought, ‘Yes, a prayer was answered.’ Now together, we waited to see if dreams come true.”

Mills, a member of the Oglala Lakota Nation, has devoted his life to serving others, working with Native American youth. He’s the national spokesperson and co-founder of Running Strong for American Indian Youth, which was established in 1986. The organization helps fight diabetes in Native American communities, but its mission goes far beyond that.

“We work on reservations, building health clinics and organic gardening projects, some recreation centers, log cabins or homes for the elderly, drilling multitudes of water wells,” Mills said in a 2013 interview posted on ncaa.org. “I wanted to help other people address poverty, and what I call poverty of dreams; to educate society that we have an obligation to help young people brought into the world to address and to help them avoid poverty of dreams.”

Mills, a gifted motivational speaker, still cherishes what he experienced in Tokyo 55 years ago. And he’s traveled the world attending the Olympics ever since.

“What became known as the unofficial theme of the 18th Olympiad was ‘the World as One’ and the moral and spiritual manner in which they were conducted truly did portray the world as one,” Mills wrote.

“To me, this is the greatest gift any Olympic game has ever given to the world and, over time, it strengthened my spirit through the dignity, characters and beauty of global diversity.”

To subscribe to Mills’ Road to Tokyo monthly newsletter, visit this link: www3.thedatabank.com/dpg/475/personal2.asp?newsession=1&formid=BMR2TSignup&fbclid