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Billy Mills (USA)

At the Tokyo Olympic Games in 1964 USA’s Billy Mills provided one of the shock wins in Olympic history.

Qualifying for the 10,000 metres, his time of 29.10.4 was almost a minute slower than the top athletes whom he would meet in Tokyo, such as Ron Clarke (Australia) the world record holder, Mohamed Gammoudi (Tunisia), and Pyotr Bolotnikov (Russia) the Olympic champion.

However he determined that he would stick with Clarke in the race, and so it turned out. He and the leaders passed through 5000m in 14.04.6, a PB for Mills, and with 2 laps to go only he, Clarke and Gammoudi were in contention. With 350m remaining, Gammoudi jostled Clarke who was forced to elbow Mills into lane 3. Down the back straight Mills recovered and moved to Clarke’s shoulder as they passed a lapped runner. Gammoudi made his final effort and pushed through between Clarke and Mills, but the latter had a fearsome kick, which he used to good effect in the last 50m.  Mills’ time of 28.24.4 was an Olympic record.

Mohamed Gammoudi bursts between Billy Mills and Ron Clarke (out of picture) with 150m to go in the 1964 Olympic 10,000m final.

We can all learn from Mills’ great performance. He had belief in his ability in spite of the fact that he was well down the ranking lists prior to the Olympic Games.

Even if we are not the best we can still take great encouragement from our efforts. Perhaps the best example is the following quote from Billy Mills:

"The ultimate is not to win, but to reach within the depths of your capabilities and to compete against yourself to the greatest extent possible. When you do that, you have dignity. You have the pride. You can walk about with character and pride no matter in what place you happen to finish”.