Lopez Lomong will carry U.S. flag for the Opening Ceremony

Maggie Hendricks
August 6, 2008

Just hours after Team Darfur co-founder Joey Cheek was denied entrance into China for the Olympic games, it was announced that Lopez Lomong, a runner for the United States who knows the atrocities of Darfur all too well, will carry the flag of the United States at Friday's Opening Ceremony. He was chosen by a vote of team captains.

Lomong is a naturalized citizen who was kidnapped from a Sudanese church by militia when he was just six years old. He escaped the militia and lived in a refugee camp for ten years. While in the camp, he began running and watched Michael Johnson win an Olympic gold medal. At that point, he made the goal to run in the Olympics. He is one of three naturalized citizens running the 1,500 miles meters for the U.S. Bernard Lagat is from Kenya, and Leo Manzano is from Mexico.

Lomong has not been shy on his wish to speak out for refugees from Darfur and Sudan:

"I need to send the message as an athlete from Sudan," Lomong said. "I am worried about the kids who are dying in Darfur, kids who don't have the dream they could be good athletes or Olympians or doctors, because they will be running away from their village, separated from their families."

In choosing Lomong, the team captains' sent a clear message to the world that though they support their teammates right to speak up. With Cheek, a gold medalist in speedskating in 2006, out of the country, Lomong might be the only one who can.

Picture via Getty Images