Aug 09 Lomong highlights needs of Sundanese children

Aug. 09, 2008, 8:58 a.m. (ET)

BEIJING (AP) Joey Cheek says American runner Lopez Lomong embodies the Olympic spirit, but he also highlights the need to help the hundreds of thousands of children in his native Sudan.

Lomong was the Sudanese-born flagbearer for the U.S. team at the opening ceremony. Cheek, a former speedskating gold medal winner, had his visa for travel to the Beijing games revoked because of his criticism of China's support for the Sudanese government.

Abducted by Sudanese rebels at age 6, Lomong escaped and spent a decade in a Kenyan refugee camp before moving to the United States in 2001. He qualified for the 1,500-meter squad last month, a year after becoming an American citizen.

Lomong had been outspoken about wanting to draw attention to the humanitarian crisis in his homeland and is a member of the Team Darfur coalition representing hundreds of athletes opposed to China's support for Sudan, where government-backed militias are waging a conflict in its western province that has claimed more than 200,000 lives.

Cheek had planned to spend two weeks in Beijing to promote his effort urging China to help make peace in the troubled region.

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STAR POWER: Kobe Bryant has fast become the face of the 2008 Olympics. Fans are mobbing the NBA superstar wherever he goes. When the camera panned to Bryant during the opening ceremony, the stadium crowd chanted, "Kobe! Kobe!"

"They just like my name becuase it's an Asian name, easy to say," Bryant explained Saturday at the U.S. men's basketball practice. "Every time I come out here, I come out here in the summertime it's been a favorable reaction. And because of that I try to embrace them even more. Even when I'm in the States I try to stay in contact with them through chats and things of that nature. Because I do have a pretty wide base out here."

Bryant and the U.S. team play China Sunday night. If the U.S. blows them out as expected, it will be interesting to see the reaction to Bryant then.

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MULTI-COUNTRY ARCHER: Archer Khatuna Lorig is competing at her fourth Olympics, but it's her first for the U.S.

Lorig, who grew up in the Republic of Georgia, competed for the Unified Team of the former Soviet Union at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, winning a bronze medal in the team competition. For the 1996 Games in Atlanta and the 2000 Games in Sydney, she represented the Republic of Georgia, where she grew up. She missed qualifying for th 2004 Olympic Games in Athens for Georgia.

Now a resident of West Hollywood, Calif., she is shooting for the United States at the 2008 Beijing Games.

Lorig and her husband, Archil Onashvili hope to compete together at the 2012 Games in London.

Two Americans, Lorig and Jennifer Nichols, finished in the top 64 Saturday and advanced to the elimination round.

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