Thursday, August 07, 2008

Americans in Beijing 2008

Tomorrow night the summer games begin. I cannot imagine the pomp, passion and creative adventure China has in store for us at the Opening Ceremony.
Americans in China
What does it means to be American? Well, it ain't about coming over on the Mayflower, or wearing a lapel pin, or owning a gun, or belonging to a certain religion or liking country music, or being a republican or democrat or being white or black or red or yellow.
Ideally it's about loving and respecting freedom.
Lopez Lomong, who has been a U.S. citizen for only 13 months, has been chosen by his American team mates to carry the stars and stripes into the Olympic stadium.
Lopez Lomong who was born in Kimotong, Sudan, has overcome an overwhelming array of obstacles in becoming a top American middle distance runner.

At age 6, he was abducted from a Sudanese church by a militia faction that wanted to turn young boys into child soldiers and girls into sex slaves. This militia professed to be Christians. He eventually escaped the militia camp through a hole in a fence with three older boys who carried him on their backs as they walked for three days until they reached Kenya, where police arrested them and sent them to a refugee camp. He spent 10 years in the camp, living on one meal a day.

Through a refugee relocation program, Lomong resettled with a foster family in New York and became one of the 3,800 resettled youngsters known as the “Lost Boys of Sudan”. Lomong excelled in high school track, then attended Northern Arizona University where he began to pursue his Olympic dreams.

Lomong became a U.S. citizen in July, 2007. His dream was to represent the USA in international competition, his way to thank those who have helped him. Away from the track, Lomong is studying hotel management because he hopes to return to Africa to help revitalize the continent's tourism. He also wants to assist families confronted with multiple challenges in his home country.

Lomong who believed his Sudanese parents long dead, recently traveled to his homeland and was reunited with his mother and brothers.

Lopez's journey from imprisoned child soldier to Sudanese refugee to member of the U.S. Olympic team has obviously inspired his fellow U.S. Olympic teammates, and brought attention to the suffering in Sudan.

Why choose Lomong to carry our flag? I'd guess it's because he represents what it means to be free, and what it means to respect that concept. It's about courage and endurance and the Olympic spirit, all embodied by Lomong. I am proud of our team for this decision.

"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." -Lopez Lomong

Dara Torres in Olympics number Five.

In 1984 Dara Torres was just 16 years old when she competed in the Los Angeles Olympic Games and won a gold medal in the 4x100 freestyle relay. In 1988, she competed in the Seoul Olympics where she earned a silver and a bronze medal. Torres initially retired in 1989, but then dove back into the pool to compete in the Barcelona Games of 1992 and won another gold for the 4x100 free relay. Then for the second time, at the age of 25, she decided to retire from competitive swimming.

Seven years later in 1999, now age 32, Dara not only got back into training, she entered in the Sydney Games in 2000 and won not one gold medal, but two as well as three bronze medals.

When Dara became pregnant in 2005, she continued swimming to keep herself in shape. Her daughter was born in April of 2006 and Dara began training once again for the 2008 Olympics. During the trials, she not only secured her position on the 2008 U.S. Olympic swim team at the age of 41, but broke American records in the 100 m freestyle and 50 m freestyle.

Dara is the first American swimmer to compete in five Olympic games. Nine medals and 24 years of swimming and she's ready to do it again.
I'll be rooting for her in the 50 meter freestyle, 4 x 100 medley relay, and 4 x 100 freestyle relay. Go Dara!




Between Olympic years, Torres spends time as a catwalk model, journalist, and takes part in extreme sports. Now she has added high-speed driving to that list.


Dustin said...

Thanks for highlighting these two individuals! I will be watching.

Monica Roberts said...

Team USA's women had to work a little bit in their opening game against the Czech Republic.

They were trauiling for a little while in the first quarter, but after they started playing some defense and pressing them, they finally started playing the ball we know they are capable of.

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