Billy Mills Crossing the Finish Line 1964 OlympicsBilly Mills was born in 1938 to the Oglala Lakota (Sioux) Tribe and was the second Native American to win an Olympic gold medal. He’s also the only American to get a gold medal at 10,000 meters.

The last lap of that race was tremendous. Billy Mills got to the Olympics after qualifying for both the 10k and the marathon and was in the Marine Corps Reserves when he competed.

Ron Clarke was the overwhelming favorite in the race and was the current world record holder. He put in a strong surge every other lap to whittle down the field until only 4 runners were still chasing, which quickly became a 3 man race at the start of the final lap when Clarke pushed Billy Mills out of his way on the first turn only to have Mohammed Gammoudi return the favor a few seconds later. Both of them managed to separate from Mills until the final turn.

That push from Ron Clarke may have actually helped Mills win, as he mentioned after the race that he was able to get much better traction from his track spikes out in lanes 2 and 3 than he’d been getting in lane 1.

Here’s a video of the race:

My favorite part of the race had be to the drama from Bud Palmer seeming to miss Billy Mills coming on at the end of the race, and Dick Bank grabbing the microphone and yelling “Look at Mills, look at Mills!” and proceeding to giggle with glee. Unfortunately for NBC, they fired Bank immediately after the race. That worked out well for CBS, though, who hired him in the late 60s and got one of the best track commentators around on their payroll.

Here’s another video of the race from another angle with some commentary from Mills as he reflects on his race:

Billy Mills’ 28:24.4 was an Olympic record and was the first time that he had ever gone sub-29. Both Ron Clarke and Mills continued on to run the marathon during the ’64 Olympics, finishing in 9th and 14th, respectively, with Mills’ finishing the marathon in 2:22:55.4.