Former Hawk Nukuri-Johnson returns to Olympics - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Former Hawk Nukuri-Johnson returns to Olympics

The country roads outside Iowa City have almost become a second home to former Hawkeye Diane-Nukuri Johnson.

"There are weeks where she runs 120 miles," Iowa track coach Layne Anderson said, "That's what it takes."

For nearly 7 years those roads and fields have become somewhat of a training partner, and they helped take her to the world's biggest stage.  Last Sunday she ran the 26.2 miles of the Olympic marathon in London finishing 31st overall.

"She has a capacity to work hard," said Anderson, "She has an ability to run a lot of miles.  She has the ability to be out there and put a lot of lonely miles in."

Those miles brought her a long way.  In London, Nukuri-Johnson was representing her African homeland of Burundi, which she fled 11 years ago to leave behind a long going civil war.  Her father was a victim of the conflict.  He was killed when Diane was 9.  She also saw leaving as a chance to find new opportunities.

"I really wanted to continue running and continue my education," Nakuri-Johnson said, "and I had the opportunity to get out of the country where all my sisters and the other people in country didn't have that opportunity."

This wasn't her first opportunity in the Olympics.  That experience came 12 years ago at the age of 15, one year before she left her country.

"When I went for the first time, I had no idea what I was really going to do," she said, "I just heard the Olympics and I didn't know anything about the Olympics."

While she didn't win a medal, she still set a national record for the nation of Burundi and easily met the goal she had set for herself prior to the race.

"I would like to make people proud, the people that have supported me, my family, my country, so I'm really going there to do the best I can."

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