September 13, 2013
by Anna Huntington, community arts coordinator for The Sculpture Project
Famed Olympic champion Billy Mills visited with Masayuki Nagase this week while in South Dakota working with the foundation, Running Strong for American Indian Youth.
The two found inspiration in one another's exceptional gifts.
Mills, who grew up on Pine Ridge, won his gold medal in the 10,000 meters with a storied come-from-behind finish at the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo.
The runner talked about how moved he was during the Olympics by the Japanese people's profound commitment to their history, traditions and values. Mills explained to Nagase, who grew up in Kyoto, that his positive experience of Japanese culture prompted him to work on behalf of Tokyo's recently successful bid for the 2020 Games.
The 1964 Games were memorable for Nagase in part because his family acquired their first television for the occasion and he remembers watching many events.
The two discussed the historical challenges of that Olympic year. World War II and nuclear warfare on Japanese soil were recent memory. Mills grew up in South Dakota amid crushing poverty and racism.
The conversation circled back to the wisdom Mills says his father passed on to him: "You need a dream to heal a broken heart."