Rio Olympics 2016: The fan letter that sparked Patty Mills’ medal ambitions

Patty Mills wants to inspire a generation of indigenous kids.Patrick Mills has always been passionate about playing for Australia, but a cutting letter from a junior indigenous fan last year reinforced why he’s so desperate to win an Olympic Games medal.
Nanjing Night Net

Canberra’s Mills and the Boomers will chase a slice of history when they play against Spain in a bronze-medal battle at Rio on Monday at 12.30am.

The Boomers are licking their wounds after they were knocked out of gold-medal contention when they struggled to a 87-61 defeat at the hands of Serbia on Saturday.

But while their golden dreams have been shattered, they still have a chance to become the first Australian men’s team to win an Olympic medal.

For Mills that gives him a platform to inspire a generation of indigenous kids and represent his family heritage.

Less than 12 months ago a letter from one of his fans in regional Western Australia expressing disappointment that Mills wasn’t named to play in an Olympic qualifying series against New Zealand is adding extra motivation.

Boomers coach Andrej Lemanis left Mills out of his team because he was unavailable for games in Europe before playing New Zealand.

“[The fan] was pretty disappointed that I wasn’t playing at the time … he didn’t hold back,” Mills told Fairfax Media.

“He sent me a letter and I ended up sending him a letter back with a few goodies to let him know that I appreciated it and I was sorry about the circumstances.

“We ended up getting him to a game [against New Zealand]. Getting that letter … there’s no question about it that you’re playing for those kids.

“That’s why it hit home for me so badly and I felt horrible. That’s what we’re playing – the next generation is what it’s all about when you’re playing for your country.”

Mills has been a shining light for the Boomers at his third Olympics, but couldn’t find his range against Serbia and finished with 13 points.

The 26-point defeat relegates them to the bronze-medal match in what looms as a tough contest against Spain. Mills is driving the passion to ensure they don’t leave Brazil empty-handed.

Mills is the son of a Torres Strait Islander father, Benny, and Aboriginal mother, Yvonne, who was part of the Stolen Generation. pic.twitter南京夜网/khYOVGldmX— Patrick Mills (@Patty_Mills) August 6, 2016

To start the Boomers’ journey to Rio, Mills and teammate Joe Ingles organised for the squad to travel to the centre of Australia and visit Uluru.

“It’s special to me, it’s special to my teammates. We don’t get to see this a lot,” an emotional Mills said on Channel 7.

“To understand the impact that we can have on a community … it’s special.

“Basketball has given me the opportunity to show the world who I am and I use basketball to be able to represent all of Australia, all of the community and its indigenous heritage.

“Basketball has given me an opportunity to do that around the world and I’m very happy to say that I can do that.”

Mills made his Olympic debut in Beijing eight years ago and has stepped up as a leader of the Australian side.

He has been playing in the NBA since 2009 and won an NBA championship with the San Antonio Spurs in 2014.

But he wants to add an Olympic medal to his collection of accolades, which includes being the highest scorer of all countries at the Olympics in 2012.

“We thought [medals] were tangible before the Olympics started and we all believed it was a realistic goal for us,” Mills said.

“I guess my motivation has changed [since 2008]. As a first-time Olympian you can get caught up in the aura of it all.

“But now the goal is so clear for us and motivating … I’m not going to let anything else get in the way of what we’re trying to achieve.”

OLYMPIC GAMES BRONZE MEDAL MATCH

Monday: Australia v Spain at 12.30am. #RoadToRio is officially under way for us Boomers with a team trip to the heart of Australia to kick off our journey pic.twitter南京夜网/6bkWdUQIe2— Patrick Mills (@Patty_Mills) July 3, 2016

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