The story moved happily from there, to Northern Arizona University, to the ranks of track and field elite, to American citizenship on July 6, 2007, and exactly one year afterward, to a spot on the U.S. team in the 1,500 meters.
And then to a Friday night march with a flag of stars and stripes, in front of a team of athletes who had the common sense and historical sensitivity to select him to lead them, in front of 91,000 in an Olympic stadium, and for millions more in front of their TV sets.
The story also has political ramifications, of course, because China has been taken to task repeatedly for perceived humanitarian violations in the Darfur region of Lomong's country, Sudan. Lomong has signed on, along with as many as 75 other Olympic athletes, as part of a group called Team Darfur that seeks increased recognition of the problem.
He was asked about that Friday. He struggled with the subject. His storytelling had come much more easily.
That's OK. We have a world full of politicians and diplomatic spinners and we have only one Lopez Lomong.
Too bad it isn't the other way around.
Bill Dwyre can be reached at email@example.com. To read previous columns by Dwyre, go to latimes.com/dwyre.