Olympic Track-and-Field Athlete and “Lost Boy of Sudan” Lopez Lomong to Present UNA Commencement Address

May. 3, 2013


By Terry Pace, UNA Communications and Marketing

Olympic Track-and-Field Athlete and “Lost Boy of Sudan” Lopez Lomong to Present UNA Commencement AddressFLORENCE, Ala. – South Sudanese-born Olympic track-and-field athlete Lopez Lomong – one of the so-called “Lost Boys of Sudan” – will be the guest speaker for the University of North Alabama’s spring commencement at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 11, at Flowers Hall.

Lomong arrived in the United States in 2001 and became a naturalized U.S. citizen six years later. He went on to qualify for the 2008 Summer Olympics track-and-field trials. Later that year, Lomong served as the flag-bearer for the U.S. during opening ceremonies for the Olympic games in Beijing, China.

“Now I’m not just one of the Lost Boys,” Lomong told reporters at the time. “I’m an American.”

Lomong was born in Kimotong, a small village in southern Sudan. At the age of six, the village was attacked while the boy was attending a Catholic church service. Lomong was kidnapped by rebel soldiers from the Sudan People’s Liberation Army and held captive in the rebel camp. With the help of three other boys, Lomong was able to escape through a hole in the fence. The boys ran for three days through the African plains.

Lomong spent the next 10 years in a Kenyan refugee camp, playing soccer and trying to survive on small rations. When he was 16, Lomong wrote an essay to Catholic Charities on what he would do if he were able to come to the United States. His essay moved Charities representatives so much that he became one of the “Lost Boys of Sudan” who were relocated to the U.S.

Lomong began his new life in Tully, New York, with adoptive American parents Robert and Barbara Rogers. To feel more at home in his new surroundings, Lomong went on long runs (as he had done in Kenya) and eventually attracted the attention of the Tully High School cross-country coach. He later competed on the track and cross-country teams at Northern Arizona University, winning two NCAA championships before traveling to Beijing to compete in the Olympics.

“I’m here to compete for my country,” Lomong told reporters when he arrived in China for the summer 2008 games. “The Olympics are supposed to bring people together to peacefully blend, and I’m looking forward to that – and stepping on the track and wearing my colors and representing my country.”

Lomong made his first return to Sudan in 2003, when he was reunited with the parents he thought had been killed during the raid on his village. He returned to his homeland again in 2008, working with an organization called Sudan Sunrise to begin construction on the Lopez Lomong School and Reconciliation Church. A year later, he brought his two younger brothers to the United States.

As an athlete, Lomong competed on the track-and-field team in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. He is currently a member of Team Darfur, a group of athletes urging China to exert pressure on the Sudanese government to address the War in Darfur. His autobiography, “Running for My Life” – co-written with Mark Tabb – was published in 2012.

“It’s not my story,’’ Lomong insists. “From the moment I carried the American flag, I said, ‘Hey, it’s not my story. There are a lot of kids out there going through the same things I went through.’ They are still being kidnapped, still being trained as soldiers. I didn’t want my brothers to be kidnapped like I was. I wanted them to come to the United States.’’

High-resolution photos of Lopez Lomong are available in the Photo Gallery on our UNA website at:
http://www.unalionsden.com/archive/album.php?album=Spring%202013%20Commencement%20Speaker&year=2013