A US Olympian’s Story of Bravery, Courage And Survival

One of the most incredible stories of love, resiliency and overcoming extremely horrific circumstances belongs to Lopez Lomong. Born in war-torn South Sudan and growing up as a child soldier during, Lopez Lomong has escaped bullets, fled from armed rebels during the second Sudanese Civil War, eventually living ten years in a refugee camp filled with disease, hunger and despair. Sure, many men will probably admit to having a period in their youth in which they veered off course or were led astray. However, not many men can say that in mere adolescence they were known as one of the Lost Boys of Sudan — an estimated 20,000 male children who were displaced and/or orphaned during an almost 20-year civil war in the North African Nile Valley. U.S. Olympian Lopez Lomong is one of the fortunate survivors who went from war child to US Olympian and World Champion Track and Field star. Lopez Lomong has literally been running for his life since he was a boy and continues to derive motivation and success from his childhood, despite the horrific events.

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Lopez has had anything but an ordinary life. To say it was tough is a ridiculous understatement. Lopez Lomong has endured much suffering in his life. Lomong was only six when he was abducted by soldiers while attending Sunday morning mass with his family. He was brought to a prison, which would later become his new home as he was trained to become a child soldier and forced to serve in the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army. Though he almost died while in detention, he eventually teamed up with older children in the camp and escaped, and reportedly ran barefoot for three days and nights until they crossed the border into Kenya, and into the relative safety of a refugee camp for the next 10 years. It took him nearly 15 years to reconnect with family members – a prayer that today many Sudanese refugees have yet to be answered.

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The Making of a Champion

Adopted by a family in upstate New York, he moved to the U.S. at 16 (thanks to a government program), and attended Tully High School. It was there that he began to realize the natural talent with which he was born, and helped lead the school’s track and cross country teams to state titles. While attending Northern Arizona University for college, he earned two D1 NCAA championships in 2007, in the 3000-meter indoor and the 1,500-meter outdoor races. That same year, just a few days after Independence Day, he became a naturalized American citizen.
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