Olympic Gold Medallist Billy Mills will be the keynote speaker at the opening ceremonies for the third annual Lori Piestewa National Native American Games at 7 p.m. on Thursday, July 15 at Sinagua High School in Flagstaff.
This annual event sponsored by Grand Canyon State Games is the largest competition for Native Americans in the United States and will attract more than 2,500 athletes of all ages and levels of skill over the weekend of July 16-18. Multi-sport competitions involving 5-on-5 basketball for both boys and girls, softball, track & field and volleyball will take place in Flagstaff, Tuba City and Page.
While serving in the U.S. Marine Corps, Mills set an American and Olympic record in winning the 10,000 meter run in the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan to become the first American to take first place in that event.
Born on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, Mills was orphaned at the age of 12 and attended the Haskell Indian School in Kansas. He began running in order to train for boxing and subsequently earned an athletic scholarship to the University of Kansas.
He holds five honorary degrees and has been a national spokesman and fund-raiser for various American Indian youth organizations. He is the author of “Wokini, A Lakota Journey to Happiness and Self-Understanding,” now in its ninth printing. His life was the subject of a 1983 film, “Running Brave” that starred Robby Benson as Billy.
The Grand Canyon State Games is a multi-sport Olympic festival for amateur athletes of all ages and abilities. Participants must be at least one-quarter Native American to compete.
In 2003, 1,551 athletes ranging in age from 6 to 78 from 26 tribes representing 52 cities and five states participated.
Last year, the Navajo tribe captured 126 medals and was awarded the Jim Thorpe Award, emblematic of the tribe winning the most medals.
Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano is the honorary chairperson and Arizona Diamondback Randy Johnson is the Executive Commissioner. The Games are a project of the Arizona Sports Council in affiliation with 37 other states throughout the United States.
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