Patty Mills wants to inspire all Australians as her country’s first Indigenous Olympic flag bearer in Tokyo
The modern Olympics began in 1896, modeled on the ancient Olympics of 776 BC.
It is a story that spans 3000 years.
This may sound impressive to some, but it is nothing compared to the importance of Australia being led to the opening ceremony in Tokyo by a member of the oldest living culture on the planet, a man who walks with 60,000 years of genetic memory running through his veins.
Patty Mills. Kokatha, Naghiralgal and Dauareb-Meriam male. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander. Defender of social justice. Professional basketball player. NBA champion and quadruple Olympian.
Alongside Cate Campbell, the first swimmer to be selected for the role, Mills will carry the Australian flag in front of the team that will march in the Parade of Nations in Tokyo.
Australian Olympic team chef de mission Ian Chesterman selected the flag bearers.
Chesterman phoned Mills and said he would be honored if, as head of the Australian Olympic team, he accepted the role.
There was no hesitation from Mills.
“It was an easy decision. I’m very proud of who I am. I’m very comfortable in my skin,” said Mills.
“I am thrilled and excited for the opportunity to be able to tell people who I am and where I am from.
“At the end of the day, I imagine little girls and boys, whether they are at home or at school… I can imagine them and what they might feel or how they will react when they see someone. ‘one like me to be a representative of them.
“That’s what it is, isn’t it? Making the next generation come forward and be true to themselves, proud of who they are, proud of who they are, and wearing this on your chest… it can help them make their dreams come true. “
“This stuff feeds my fire”
Some of the words most commonly associated with being an Olympic flag bearer include honor, responsibility, inspiration, and an enduring symbol.
Mills said the significance would take a lifetime to process.
“I say this because I really think that for you and I to really understand what these words mean in this role, it will take a long time,” he said.
“I think it’s more about what it means for everyone?” What does this mean for the rest of Australia? What does this mean for expats living in the world?
“What does this mean for the younger generation that is coming, the people who came before us? What does this mean for them?
“I think it’s the feeling that really ignites the fire in me to really use it as a driving force to achieve what I want to accomplish in sport.
“This stuff stirs my fire, it’s the stuff that helps me set myself up – a mindset of hard work, of grinding, to be able to achieve what I want to achieve.”
Hard work is programmed inside Mills. It represents the nations within a nation.
Australia is a country with a complex history. Some still say that it was settled by the British in 1788; others now admit it was stolen.
Of all the Commonwealth of Nations, Australia is the only one that does not have a treaty with its indigenous population.
Mills’ mother and siblings were victims of the Stolen Generations, having been forcibly removed from their families due to government policy that believed they had better be assimilated into white society.
The Australian flag that Mills will be carrying to the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo has the Union Jack in the upper left corner, representing the history of British colonization. It is surrounded by the Federation Star, representing the states and territories of the country, and a constellation of stars known as the Southern Cross.
While there is nothing on this flag that recognizes the country’s original peoples, the true stars of the Southern Cross have at least witnessed every episode in Australian history.
In every interview Mills has conducted, he has the Australian flag as a backdrop. To its left is the Aboriginal Flag and to its right is the Torres Strait Islander Flag.
All three symbolize who Mills is and how he sees himself.
“There are benefits to being able to overcome adversities in your life and on your trip,” Mills said.
“I think there are benefits to being able to really grind and work hard for something that you desperately want to accomplish.
“It was part of my upbringing… understanding who I am, understanding who my family is and what they went through from top to bottom.
“The obstacles that I went through and the adversity that I went through as a young boy, I can say that it is nothing like what my mother went through, for example.
“But it was adversity, and it shaped me to who I am today.
“That’s why when I’m in this position, I can sit here or stand here with this confidence … because I know there are young boys and girls watching this and that’s a message to them – to stand with confidence and stand with your chest up and deliver your identity, and deliver the pride of who you are because it starts there and then everything else will fall into place. “
Mills’ emphasis on the comeback
Mills is credited with using his voice, connections, and income to ensure that those who turn to him for inspiration walk away with more than that.
He founded Indigenous Basketball Australia (IBA), with the aim of teaching sports skills, while developing better qualities of health, education, cultural knowledge and leadership for future generations.
Proof of Mills’ stature in the game, the NBA has become an IBA partner.
“There are many factors that motivated the launch of Indigenous Basketball Australia,” said Mills.
“We are tackling basketball issues first and trying to get a higher participation of young indigenous boys and girls, not only at the junior level, but also at the senior level, and hopefully in the NBL. , the WNBL, the Boomers and the Opals.
“But like I said, the focus is also on things off the pitch… it can help keep the culture alive… it can help children on a daily basis.
“Whether it is with their self-confidence, whether it is in their day-to-day life, can we take them off the streets and put them into a program in which they feel comfortable with and around people sharing the same ideas so that they can truly flourish? “
Tokyo will be Mills’ fourth Olympics. In his first game, in Beijing 2008, he led the baby boomer score.
In his second, at London 2012, he led the tournament in points per game, his tally highlighted by a to die for on the buzzer to defeat Russia for a place in the quarterfinals.
In his last Olympics, in Rio 2016, the veteran scored 30 points in the bronze medal game against Spain.
Being the flag bearer at his fourth Olympics has already guaranteed Mills will be a lasting symbol, but his primary focus remains the challenge of helping baby boomers win an elusive Olympic medal.
This is made even more difficult with the announcement that the venue for the basketball competition will be devoid of fans and atmosphere.
“It will be difficult. It will be different,” said Mills.
“This is something athletes aren’t completely used to, but at the end of the day it’s just another obstacle, just another bump in the road, an adversity that athletes usually almost face. daily.
“Professionals at this level understand this and are able to quickly put themselves in the frame of mind: ‘OK, I recognize this adversity, how do I go through it, bypass it or overcome it? “
“I think that also happens when you have the Australian spirit behind you, and I know that’s a cliché thing to say, but it’s something that I use really, really heavily, especially at this level, in this environment.
“At the end of the day, it’s the Olympics. It’s the biggest sporting event in the world. It’s a big stage, no matter if there are fans or not.
“So while we would love to have fans and supporters and everyone cheering everyone on, we have to play by the rules and that part is out of our control.
And is it a medal?
“One hundred percent,” Mills said.
And is this medal gold?
“One hundred percent.”
Patty Mills. Model. Man on a mission. Australian Olympic flag bearer.