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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.”

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Shelby Houlihan shatters American 5000m record

Shelby Houlihan
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Shelby Houlihan chopped 10.52 seconds off her own American 5000m record, clocking 14:23.92 at a Bowerman Track Club intrasquad meet in Portland, Ore., on Friday night.

Houlihan, who was 11th in the Rio Olympic 5000m, has in this Olympic cycle improved to become one of the greatest female distance runners in U.S. history.

She first broke Shannon Rowbury‘s American record in the 5000m by 4.47 seconds in 2018. In 2019, she broke Rowbury’s American record in the 1500m by 1.3 seconds in finishing fourth at the world championships in 3:54.99.

On Friday, Houlihan and second-place Karissa Schweizer both went under the American record. Schweizer, 24 and three years younger than Houlihan, clocked 14:26.34, staying with Houlihan until the winner’s 61-second final lap.

“I knew Karissa was going to try to come up on me and take the lead. She does that every time,” Houlihan told USATF.tv. “I had decided I was not going to let that happen.”

Houlihan improved from 41st to 12th on the world’s all-time 5000m list, 12.77 seconds behind Ethiopian Tirunesh Dibaba‘s world record.

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Can T.J. Oshie, other established Olympic hockey stars hold on for 2022?

T.J. Oshie
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T.J. Oshie will be 35 years old during the next Winter Olympics. Jonathan Quick will be 36. Now that the NHL is one key step closer to returning to the Winter Games, the question surfaces: which 2014 Olympians will have a difficult time returning to rosters in 2022?

Oshie was the last of the 14 forwards chosen for the U.S. Olympic team for Sochi, beating out Bobby Ryan and Brandon Saad, in part for his shootout prowess.

In group play against Russia, Oshie was memorably tapped by U.S. head coach Dan Bylsma six times in a shootout, including all five in the sudden-death rounds. Oshie beat Sergei Bobrovsky four times, including the game winner.

“After I went out for my third attempt, I figured I was going to keep going,” Oshie said, according to USA Hockey. “Each time I would look up to see what [Bylsma] had to say, and he would just give me a nod every time. I kind of started laughing toward shot five and six because it was getting kind of ridiculous.”

Oshie became known as “T.J. Sochi” on social media. President Barack Obama congratulated him on Twitter. The U.S. eventually lost to Canada in the semifinals and Finland in the bronze-medal game.

When the NHL chose not to send its players to the PyeongChang Winter Games, it may have spelled the end of Oshie’s Olympic career.

Consider that the oldest forward on the 2014 U.S. Olympic team was 29, six years younger than Oshie will be come 2022. A recent Olympic roster prediction from The Hockey Writers put Oshie in the “Just Missed Out” list.

NBC Sports NHL analyst Pierre McGuire has Oshie among the finalists for the last forward spots in his early U.S. roster prediction.

“I wouldn’t discount T.J. Oshie because shootout is still part of it,” McGuire said. “He still has his shootout moves, even though he’s not getting any younger.”

Quick, the unused third goalie in 2010, played 305 out of 365 minutes in net for the U.S. in Sochi. He was coming off a Stanley Cup in 2012 and en route to another one in 2014.

Since, he was sidelined by a knee injury that required surgery. He remains the Los Angeles Kings’ No. 1 goalie, which almost automatically puts an American in the Olympic roster discussion these days.

“Somebody like Jonathan definitely merits consideration just because of his achievement level over time, but I think he’d be the first person to tell you injuries have definitely affected him,” McGuire said of Quick, looking to become the second-oldest U.S. goalie to play in the Olympics after Tom Barrasso in 2002. “It’s not going to be easy for him.”

The U.S. could bypass Quick for three Olympic rookies in 2022. Connor Hellebuyck, John Gibson and Ben Bishop have superior save percentages and goals-against averages and more games played than Quick since the start of the 2018-19 season.

A wild card is Spencer Knight, the 19-year-old No. 1 from the world junior championships who last year became the highest-drafted goalie since 2010 (No. 13 to the Florida Panthers). Knight would break defenseman Bryan Berard‘s record as the youngest U.S. Olympic hockey player in the NHL era.

The Canadian roster has traditionally been deeper than the U.S. The talent is overwhelming at center, led by Sidney CrosbyConnor McDavidPatrice Bergeron and Nathan MacKinnon. The Canadians must get creative if the likes of veterans Jonathan Toews and John Tavares will join them in Beijing.

Toews, then 21, was the best forward at the 2010 Vancouver Games and Canada’s only one on the all-tournament team. While Toews’ last NHL All-Star selection was in 2017, his last two seasons have been his best in terms of points per game since 2011.

“The one thing that Canada is very good at, they do it extremely well, they select players that fit roles,” McGuire said, noting Mike Richards shifting to the wing during the 2010 Olympics. “When you look at the overwhelming depth that Canada has, that’s going to be the thing that’s going that’s going to be very interesting to watch to see how it plays out at center.”

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