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2008 Olympic Games

August 8-24, 2008 - Beijing, China

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Lopez Lomong to carry flag for Team USA - USOC Press Release

Memories of when Lomong came to Tully HS in NY from his refugee background

By John Nepolitan

Lopez Lomong battles with Josh McDougal during the 2003 Foot Locker NE Regional at Van Cortlandt Park. 
Photo John Nepolitan

Running has been a part of Lopez Lomong’s entire life, but he did not start when he was discovered in gym class or by winning the elementary school field day. 

At age 6, running meant leaving his home in Sudan to escape those that wanted to turn young boys into child soldiers.  He eventually escaped the militia camp through a hole in a fence with three older boys and began running for his life.  For three days, the boys ran, thinking they were headed back to their village to rejoin family.  Heading in the wrong direction, the boys eventually reached Kenya, where police arrested them and sent them to a refugee camp.

He would spend the next 10 years in the camp, living on one meal a day.  Alone and thinking that his family had all been killed, Lomong would eventually be part of a group of young men sent to the USA to live with American families.  On July 31st 2001, Lopez Lomong was able to run from Africa and landed in the upstate New York community of Tully and into a new life. 

Soon after settling in with his host family, Lomong wanted to head out for his “exercise.”  When asked how far he wanted to run by his hosts, Robert and Barbara Rogers, he said 30 kilometers.  They had no idea how far that was.  A fast call to the local high school track coach, Jim Paccia, determined the young man wanted to run 18 miles.  Lomong was eventually sent out on a run that would total 14 miles and pass Coach Paccia’s home on the way back.  Once Paccia met the young man, he knew he had something special. 

Lomong joined the Tully cross country and track teams and, during his senior year in 2003-04, he became one of the dominant runners in New York.  During that final year, he claimed the New York Class D XC title, New York Federation XC title, and indoor and outdoor 1600 meter crowns.  On the national stage, Lomong finished 6th in the Foot Locker Northeast Regional, earning a trip to the San Diego finals where he would finish 20th.  During the indoor season, Lomong was 2nd in the Nike Indoor Championship mile. 

Lomong’s running landed him at Northern Arizona University, where he earned numerous All American honors, including NCAA titles in the 2007 Indoor 3000 and 2007 Outdoor 1500.  Just before the 2007 USATF Championships, Lomong completed the final steps to becoming a US citizen and although he did not qualify for the World Championships, he did show he was one of America’s rising stars. 

Fast forward to July 2008 and with his 3rd place finish Lomong ran himself onto the US Olympic team at 1500 meters.  If that was not enough of an honor, he will now lead the US delegation into the Olympic Stadium as the flag barrier in the Opening Ceremonies on August 8th.

A short video on Lomong’s high school days in Tully, NY -



USOC Press Release

August 6, 2008

Lopez Lomong Selected as Flag Bearer for 2008 U.S. Olympic Team

Lopez Lomong en route to 2nd in the NIN mile in 2004.  Photorun.net
BEIJING, China - The United States Olympic Committee (USOC) announced today that track & field athlete Lopez Lomong (Tully, N.Y.) has been selected as flag bearer for the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team by fellow members of Team USA. Lomong, 23, was notified of his selection Wednesday night via phone in Dalian, China, where he is training with the U.S. Olympic Track & Field Team.

"This is the most exciting day ever in my life," Lomong said. "It's a great honor for me that my teammates chose to vote for me. The Opening Ceremony is the best day and the best moment of Olympic life. I'm here as an ambassador of my country and I will do everything I can to represent my country well."

To select the flag bearer, U.S. captains from each sport met in the Athlete Village Wednesday night, in person and via conference call for those not yet in Beijing. Any captain was able to bring forward a nominee from any sport. After the nominations and a discussion period, the athletes voted, selecting Lomong.

Lomong will compete in the 1,500 meters in Beijing in what is his first international appearance. He finished third at the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team Trials - Track & Field in Eugene, Ore., with a time of 3:41.00. Lomong attended Northern Arizona University, where he won the 2007 NCAA outdoor 1,500 meter title and the 2007 NCAA indoor 3,000 meter title.

Lomong has overcome an overwhelming array of obstacles in becoming a top American middle distance runner. He was born in Sudan, fleeing the country when he was 6 years old and becoming separated from his family. He was sent to live in a refugee camp in Kenya for 10 years, and in 2000 he walked five miles to watch the Sydney Olympic Games on a black-and-white TV. It was then that his Olympic dream began. Watching U.S. track & field athlete Michael Johnson run, Lomong remarked that "I'd like to run like that guy." He wrote a moving essay in 2001 about what he would strive to accomplish if he lived in America, and his heartfelt words prompted officials to give him that chance. He was moved to the United States to live with a foster family in Tully, N.Y., and became a U.S. citizen in July 2007, a moment he says has changed his life forever.

"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. "This is another amazing step for me in celebrating being an American. Seeing my fellow Americans coming behind me (in the Opening Ceremony) and supporting me will be a great honor - the highest honor. It's just a happy day. I don't even have the words to describe how happy I am."

Please note, the August 7 9:00 am USOC flag bearer press conference has been RESCHEDULED due to Lomong's training location. The press conference has been rescheduled for August 8 at 10:00 am in Main Press Center press conference room 4.

Year  U.S. Flag Bearer (Sport)
1908  Ralph Rose (Athletics)
1912  George V. Bonhag (Athletics)
1920  Patrick J. McDonald (Athletics)
1924  Patrick J. McDonald (Athletics)
1928  Lemuel (Bud) C. Houser (Athletics)
1932  F. Morgan Taylor (Athletics)
1936  Alfred A. Jochim (Gymnastics)
1948  Ralph C. Craig (Yachting)
1952  Norman C. Armitage (Fencing)
1956  Norman C. Armitage (Fencing)
 #Warren B. Wofford (Equestrian)
1960  Rafer L. Johnson (Athletics)
1964  William Parry O'Brien (Athletics)
1968  Janice Lee Romary (Fencing)
1972  Olga Fikotova Connolly (Athletics)
1976  Gary W. Hall (Swimming)
1980  USA did not attend
1984  Edward Burke (Athletics)
1988  Evelyn Ashford (Athletics)
1992  Francie Larrieu Smith (Athletics)
1996  Bruce Baumgartner (Wrestling)
2000  Cliff Meidl (Canoe/Kayak)
2004  Dawn Staley (Basketball)
2008 Lopez Lomong (Athletics)

# Due to Australia's immigration laws for horses, the 1956 equestrian events were held separately in Stockholm.

For more information, please contact the USOC Communications Division at (719) 866-4529.

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