US athlete Lopez Lomong started running when he escaped his captors in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Now he’s still running, but towards an Olympic medal.
Lompong participated in the London 2012 Olympic Games and the 2008 Beijing Games. He carried the US flag during the Olympic Opening Ceremony in Beijing.
Although Lompong runs with a smile on his face, he carries a heavy past with him on the track.
Lompong was kidnapped at age six by soldiers during a Sunday morning mass in his home country, Sudan.
He, along with several other children, were taken to a prison where they would be trained to become child soldiers.
"I saw kids dying every day and I would say, 'OK, maybe next time it's going to be me. That basically changed my life and from that moment I'm no longer six years old — I became an adult," Lompong said.
With the help of three older children, Lompong escaped a few weeks later. The children went through a hole in the prison fence and fled on foot. Lompong described their flight as their “race to freedom.”
The boys ran for three days and nights, after which they reached Kenya. Lompong spent the next 10 years of his life in a refugee camp in the country.
At age 16, Lompong became one of the almost 4,000 refugees who were resettled in various US cities as a part of a UN and US government program.
After being adopted by a family in Tully, NY, Lompong attended high school and began thinking about running.
He became a US citizen in July 2007 and made the national Olympics team in 2008. Lompong competed in the 1550m race in Beijing. Although he didn’t make it to the finals, he was honored by being selected by his teammates to be the flag-bearer for Team USA.
Lompong came in 10th during the men’s 5000m final at this year’s Olympic Games in London.