Athlete who ran for his life now runs to help his home country
A South Sudanese runner, who was kidnapped by rebels at six years of age, is now competing in the men’s 5,000 metre race at the London 2012 Olympics (8th August 2012).
Lopez Lomong was taken from his family’s home in Kimotong, a village in South Sudan, by rebel soldiers from the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army in 1991.
After weeks of watching other children die from the conditions of their imprisonment, he and three other captives managed to escape through a hole in a fence.
The boys ran for three days and nights before crossing into Kenya, where they were settled in a refugee camp, filled with parentless children.
“The three days we spent running were the most tiring and terrifying of my life,” Lopez said. “We were exhausted but far too scared to stop in case we were re-captured.
“I’ll never forget the relief I felt when we reached the Kenyan border.”
But having escaped his kidnappers, Lopez’s struggle was not over and he spent the next ten years on a meagre existence of one meal a day in the refugee camp.
“Life was hard. I slept in a hut with ten other boys and survived on very little. My only escape from everything that was going on around me was getting a chance to run and play football.”
Luckily for Lopez, at the age of 16, he was adopted by an American family and went to live in New York.
He soon discovered he was the fastest runner in his school and in time one of the fastest men in the nation. After turning pro and becoming an American citizen in 2007, Lopez is now hoping for a Gold medal at London 2012.
As well as taking part in the Olympic Games, Lopez is keen to use his running to help bring hope and opportunity to his birth country of the Republic of South Sudan.
To do this, Lopez has started “4 South Sudan”, a partnership between international children’s charity World Vision and the Lopez Lomong Foundation.
4 South Sudan’s mission is to meet the needs of the South Sudanese people through water, healthcare, education and nutrition.
Lopez has also written a book called Running for My Life, documenting his journey from a prison camp in South Sudan to the Olympic games.
“It’s been just over a year since South Sudan gained its independence, but people living there are struggling. A 15-year-old girl in the country is more likely to die in childbirth than finish primary school and more than half of the population don’t have access to safe drinking water.
“I hope by working with World Vision and raising money and awareness through 4 South Sudan, we can make a difference to the lives of people who really need it.”
Next year Lopez is planning on taking other professional athletes to Kenya and South Sudan as part of the 4 South Sudan partnership.
For more information about 4 South Sudan visit www.lompezlomong.com/foundation and www.4southsudan.org
27 July 2012