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Refugee travel ban brings sadness to ‘Lost Boy’ Lopez Lomong

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Two-time Olympian Lopez Lomong‘s mind frequently wanders back in time during training runs through the woods.

He thinks about arriving in the U.S. as one of the “Lost Boys of Sudan,” with nothing more than a book featuring the Statue of Liberty on the cover. He remembers becoming a U.S. citizen in 2007 after being among the thousands of young civil war refugees brought to the nation. And proudly wearing the red, white and blue as the middle-distance runner carried the American flag at the 2008 Beijing Games.

That’s the inviting country he knows — the one to which he brought two brothers from Africa so they could run at American colleges. The one that hopefully someday welcomes his mom and sister, who remain back in Africa.

Now, Lomong’s new home created fresh fear with President Donald Trump‘s order to suspend all immigration for citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries for 90 days.

It weighs on him.

“I’ve been crying since I was 6 years old when I was taken away from my family. I don’t want to cry again,” Lomong said in a phone interview from Flagstaff, Arizona, where he’s training. “I don’t have tears anymore.”

Lomong was a child when rebels kidnapped him from the arms of his mother at a church service in his village in South Sudan. He escaped from the rebel camp with three older boys, running for three days before being taken by Kenyan border patrol troops to a refugee camp.

There, he stayed for a decade before being told about the “Lost Boys of Sudan” program. He wrote an essay about his life, and was selected to live with an adoptive family in the United States. He arrived on July 31, 2001, with nothing more than the clothes on his back — and that book featuring Lady Liberty.

“It was a blessing to come to this country,” said Lomong, who attended Northern Arizona University and rose to the ranks of All-American.

In 2008, Lomong was part of a U.S. men’s 1500m contingent headed to the Olympics that was truly diverse, joining Leo Manzano, who was born in Mexico, and Bernard Lagat, from Kenya.

“We were one team, wearing the same uniform, wearing the same colors. To me, that right there is what America is all about,” said the 32-year-old Lomong, who is making a movie about his lifelong journey. “We were one.”

He counts being picked to carry the flag for his new country in Beijing as one of his most treasured honors. He couldn’t stop grinning on his trip around the stadium.

Thousands of miles away, two young boys were watching from a one-bedroom apartment in Kenya, on a television bought for them by their big brother. Peter and Alex Lomong vividly remember the feeling of pride as they watched Lopez representing America that day.

They wanted to follow in his footsteps. He helped open the door.

Peter and Alex each attended Fork Union Military Academy in Virginia, because their future coach/guardian saw an HBO’s “Real Sports” episode on Lopez and was so touched that he reached out to the family. The brothers moved in with coach Winston Brown and his wife in 2009 — and flourished. Both siblings are now runners in college — Peter a sophomore at Northern Arizona, and Alex a freshman at Ohio State.

“They were fantastic additions to not just our family but to the community,” Brown wrote in an email. “The most remarkable part was Lopez’s trust in Beth and I. He is a one-in-a-billion human being.”

Peter echoes that sentiment.

“I’m able to read, able to speak English, able to tell myself I have a future — all because of my big brother,” Peter said. “He’s an idol to me.”

And constantly looking out for them, which is why Trump’s order is so distressing to Lopez. It pauses America’s entire refugee program for months, and temporarily freezes immigration from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Yemen and Sudan.

He just wants his brothers — all immigrants — to have a chance at success. He also wants his siblings close, so he doesn’t have to worry about them.

“They’re just kids and want to learn. They want to do something to change their lives,” said Lopez, who also made the U.S. team for the 2012 London Games. “My brothers are here, and doing so great. I want them to be safe. I don’t want to lose anybody else.”

Lately, he’s experienced quite a bit of loss.

At the 2016 Olympic Trials, he was running with a heavy heart. He said he lost his dad and two other brothers in Africa — all within a span of a few months and with no explanation. He didn’t get to attend their funerals.

Someday, Lopez hopes to bring his mom and sister to the United States and reunite the family.

“I want them to be in this country, with the safety and the freedom that we all hold dear in this country,” Lopez said. “I represent this country with all my heart. I want to win a gold medal for this country. I want to do anything for this country.”

MORE: Mo Farah ‘relieved’ he can return to U.S., calls policy ‘discriminatory’

Yuzuru Hanyu opens Olympic season with record score

Yuzuru Hanyu
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A sore knee didn’t hold Yuzuru Hanyu back. A record score to open his Olympic season.

The Olympic and world champion from Japan hit a pair of quadruple jumps in his short program at the Autumn Classic, a lower-level event in Montreal.

He was rewarded with 112.72 points, the highest short program score recorded under the 13-year-old judging system. Video is here.

It looked like a home competition for Hanyu.

Upon finishing, he bowed toward one set of bleachers (maybe a dozen rows) at the Sportsplexe Pierrefonds. More than two dozen Japanese flags made it hard to see most of the faces.

He bettered Javier Fernández, a two-time world champion and training partner, by 11.52 points. Fernández also landed two quadruple jumps to tally 101.2.

Full scores will be here upon the conclusion of the short program. The free skate is Saturday at 8 p.m. ET. A live stream is here.

Hanyu now owns the three highest short program scores under the 13-year-old system. The other two were set in the 2015-16 season.

Showdowns like Hanyu-Fernández are usually reserved for, at the earliest, the Grand Prix series in late October and November.

Hanyu and Fernández are very familiar with each other, having shared a coach in Canadian Brian Orser, the 1988 Olympic silver medalist, since 2012. They train in Toronto.

In that time, Hanyu became the first Japanese man to win an Olympic title (and the second teen from any nation to do it). He followed it up with world titles later in 2014 and this year.

Fernández achieved unfathomable success for a Spanish skater — world titles in 2015 and 2016, overtaking Hanyu in the free skate both times.

In PyeongChang, Hanyu can become the first man to repeat as Olympic champion since Dick Button in 1952. Fernández can become the third Spaniard to earn a Winter Olympic medal of any color in any sport, and the first since 1992.

The figure skating season continues next week with Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany, the final Olympic qualifying competition. North Korea could clinch its first spots in any sport for the Olympics in the pairs event.

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USOC letter assures Olympians about South Korea security

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The U.S. Olympic Committee’s security chief sent a letter to potential Winter Olympians saying there are no indications that recent developments between the U.S. and North Korea have compromised security in South Korea.

The letter, obtained by The Associated Press shortly after it was sent Friday, makes no suggestion that the U.S. is considering skipping the PyeongChang Winter Games for security reasons.

But Chief Security Officer Nicole Deal does write that provocations that have been volleyed between the United States and North Korea are likely to persist for the foreseeable future, and “should not be dismissed as insignificant nor feared as precursors of an inevitable conflict.”

The letter comes at the end of a week in which France’s sports minister suggested the country’s athletes would stay home if security could not be guaranteed.

The International Olympic Committee, trying to calm concerns, reiterated that in conversations with high-level officials in China and South Korea, none have expressed doubt about the Winter Games proceeding as scheduled, next February.

The USOC also sent out a public statement Friday from CEO Scott Blackmun.

“We will continue to work with our State Department and local organizers to ensure that our athletes, and our entire delegation, are safe,” he said.

The letter, sent to athletes, national governing bodies and other Olympic leaders in the United States, said the USOC’s security division is operating as “business as usual for our security planning and preparations.”

Deal writes that the USOC is reviewing crisis management plans that address a range of potential scenarios “to ensure our athletes, and our entire delegation, are safe.”

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