7 August 2012
Olympic athletes have to go through many trials and work so hard to get to the Games, but none more so than Lopez Lomong, who is representing the United States in the 5,000m race.
Click to hear the report
The journey to London 2012 for the American runner Lopez Lomong has been long and extraordinary. He was one of the so-called Lost Boys - thousands of child refugees who fled civil war in Sudan.
My journey started when I was 6 years old, in the little village of Kimatong. We were in a church when the rebel soldiers came in and ordered everyone to lay down. They took all the young kids to the training camp - I was too young to hold an AK-47 and go to war because I was only 6 years old. I witnessed a lot of kids dying every day because of the food they were giving us. They were giving us a grain which was mixed with sand - a lot of kids were eating this food - but it doesn't digest in the stomach and they die.
One night Lopez Lomong managed to crawl out of the rebel camp and started running. He thought he was going back to his village, but his first ever race took him all the way to Kenya, where he spent the next 10 years in a refugee camp. Life was hard and he would run to forget his hunger. But one day he caught a glimpse into another world. He spent all the money he had - five shillings - to watch one Olympic race on TV.
I saw Michael Johnson running the 400m final and he ran so fast. What really inspired me so much is that when he went to receive the medal I saw the tears come out of his face – in Africa, a grown-up person cannot cry like that. I thought, why did he cry? He just won the race, he wasn't last. But eventually I ended up seeing that he was running behind something bigger than himself – he was running for his country. From that moment, I said I would like to run for that country one day, and he became my role model from that point.
His dreams came true when the United States agreed to take 3,500 of Sudan's Lost Boys as part of a government resettlement programme. He even met his hero Michael Johnson and after years of training he qualified for the Beijing Olympics, where he was their flag bearer.
But he has never forgotten his roots and frequently visits South Sudan, where he helps to provide clean water, education and medicine through his foundation, '4 South Sudan'. He truly represents these Olympics because he's not just running for gold for the glory, but to inspire the next generation in America and across Africa.
Click to hear the vocabulary
- rebel soldiers
armed group who are resisting an established order
move slowly on hands and knees
- refugee camp
sheltered area for people who have run away from danger
- caught a glimpse
had a very brief look
- role model
person regarded as a good example to follow
- flag bearer
person who carries the banner of their country at an important event