In his book Dream It, Do It, Frank Mungeam profiles high achievers and the path they followed to reach their dreams.
When the U.S. team entered the Olympic Stadium in Beijing in 2008, Lopez Lomong was at the front, bearing the United States flag. Only an exceptional few earn the chance to represent their country by competing in the Olympic Games. To be chosen to lead your team is an even greater honor. For Lopez Lomong, that moment had little to do with his athletic achievements and everything to do with overcoming adversity.
Lomong was born in the South of Sudan. In 1991, his village was swept up in the country’s civil war. At age six, he was among up to 20,000 ‘Lost Boys of Sudan’ kidnapped by rebels. His family presumed he was dead. Yet three weeks later he and three friends escaped and ran for three days and three nights until they reached the Kenya border.
Lomong lived in a refugee camp near Nairobi for 10 years. One day in 2000, he walked five miles to watch the Sydney Olympic Games on a black-and-white TV. The experience inspired his dream of running in the Olympics. Watching U.S. sprinter Michael Johnson, Lomong remarked “I’d like to run like that guy.”
Lomong wrote a moving essay about what he would strive to accomplish if he lived in America, and his heartfelt letter earned him that chance. A year later, in 2001, he was among several thousand Lost Boys of Sudan who were brought to live with host families in the United States through the Catholic Charities program.
Lomong earned his U.S. citizenship in 2007 while attending Northern Arizona University. That year, he also won the NCAA outdoor track championships in 1500 meters. He qualified for the Olympic team the following summer, and proudly carried the flag of his adopted home in Beijing at the 2008 Summer Olympic Games.
“The American flag means everything in my life – everything that describes me, coming from another country and going through all of the stages that I have to become a U.S. citizen,” Lomong said.
Lomong overcame tremendous adversity in his life, yet he considers himself lucky. Thousands of boys from Sudan’s civil strife drowned, were eaten by wild animals or were shot by military forces.
Since Beijing, Lomong has won two national outdoor track 1500 meter titles, and aspires to represent his adopted country again in 2012. Now sponsored by Nike, he’s been living and training in Oregon in preparation for the U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene. But his homeland is never far from his mind.
Since the 2008 Olympic Games, Lomong has returned annually to Sudan, and he’s started a foundation called 4 South Sudan to help bring clean water to his homeland.
In an interview with KGW reporter Pat Dooris, Lomong talked about his desire to give back: “I was very, like, blessed to be able to come here and work very hard and get, you know, get the American dream, get my education just like that but now be able to give back to the people of southern Sudan.”
Lopez Lomong’s new book Running for My Life, was just released.
In his book Dream It, Do It, Frank Mungeam profiles high achievers and the path they followed to reach their dreams. Chapter 6 is entitled Expect Adversity. Read a sample chapter and download the book today to begin the journey to live your dreams!