For two-time Olympian Lopez Lomong and his Bowerman Track Club teammates, it’s highly convenient that the U.S. and world indoor championships will be held on consecutive weekends in their training base of Portland, Oregon. But Lopez would be aiming for a top finish in the 3,000 meters at USAs on Friday, and the subsequent spot on the world indoor team, regardless of the meets’ locations.
“The opportunity to race against the world best is never one to be missed,” he says. “In 2012 I competed in indoor worlds in Istanbul, and it gave me a chance to test out tactics against the world’s most elite runners. I learned a lot about what it would take to be on the Olympic stage and chase after a medal. You can never be fully prepared for the feeling of stepping into the Olympic stadium, but world indoor still gives a good taste and is like an Olympic testing bed. Everyone’s strengths and weaknesses are really magnified on that little indoor track!”
As a former Lost Boy from Sudan who was the American team’s flag bearer at the 2008 Olympics, Lopez has another motivation to wear the U.S. uniform—to be a counterargument to the harsh language on immigration that’s marked much of the U.S. presidential campaign.
“I think the discussion around immigration is one that will define the U.S. for many years to come,” he says. “Running has allowed me the platform to speak about the conflicts in South Sudan, the need to use athletics and sport in general to achieve greater goals, and this year about the importance of embracing immigrants.
“I will certainly be proudly representing the U.S. again this year and forever thankful to the people who opened their arms to me to give me a second chance. I pray that we as a country continue to believe in the American dream that is built upon our great diversity.”
Lopez qualified for indoor nationals with an indoor 3,000-meter PR of 7:43.01 at the Millrose Games on February 20. After years of battling muscle and nerve issues, he says a new focus on recovery has him feeling strong and agile. “The key for me is health so that when I line up I can pour everything into the race without any concern about pain,” he says.
Perhaps fitting for someone with such a broad international outlook, Lopez did much of his base training for this season on the other side of the world. His wife, Brittany Morreale, a first lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force, is currently stationed in Adelaide, Australia. Lopez joined her there for three months, training with a local group known as Team Tempo. He’s already pining to return.
“I am really encouraging [BTC coach] Jerry [Schumacher] to bring more of the team down next year so we can escape the cold, rainy Portland winter and train on the amazing park lands in the perfect Adelaide weather,” Lopez says.
After, of course, he makes one or more U.S. teams in this Olympic year.