Prince Mumba grew up in Zambia without the support of family, or consistent food and shelter, to become a two-time Olympic track and field athlete.
We are proud to support Uber driver-partner Prince as he competes to qualify for this year’s Summer Olympics.
Learn more about the Santa Monica Track Club star and check out how you can donate to support his road to Rio.
Where are you from originally?
I was born in Kitwe, Zambia. My mom was older when she had me. She was 48 and I was the 11th child she had.
My mom couldn’t believe it. I was born 10 years after her last child and her doctor told her to stop having kids for safety reasons.
My mom called me a mistake. She left me in the hospital. I was there for a month and then she eventually came and picked me up.
I was considered a mistake and my family didn’t want to admit I was a part of them.
How would you describe your experience as a child in Zambia?
I thank my mom and family for putting me into school. But when I was 8 years old my mom and dad moved to a nearby village when he retired from the copper mines.
I began living with my sister who was married to a miner. She had no control of what I needed and there was very little money. Sometimes there was food in my sister’s house for me, sometimes there was no food. I worked so hard cleaning cars, doing laundry for people, gardening around the city to make money.
One thing that helped me find comfort during this time was playing soccer with friends but it was hard. I was hungry all of the time.
How long were you without a stable place to live?
It was about a year. I would find dirty cars, clean them, and wait for an owner to come out to see if he would pay me. I wasn’t a kid. I wasn’t enjoying life.
Soon my brother found me at the church and brought me back to live with him. Not because he felt bad, but because he was embarrassed people started hearing he had a brother who was living on the street.
Mumba sits for a class picture. He is wearing his favorite jean jacket from a member of his church.
When did running come into your life?
I was so excited whenever I was in class. I was loud, always making noise — just out of happiness. To punish me for this, my teacher made me run around the track. But I started enjoying it.
This same teacher asked if I had ever run and she started encouraging me to practice.
How did you know this wasn’t just going to be a hobby?
I was running but wasn’t doing heavy training and I was already beating all the kids at my school and then beating everyone in my province, and then everyone in my country. And then I competed internationally.
When I was 15 I tried out for the Olympics for my country. I won the 800 meter race. It was amazing and I loved it. But I was just 15 and too young to compete in the Olympics that year.
Mumba competes in a school race his junior year of high school at age 16. “You couldn’t see the second person because I was so fast,” said Mumba.
How did you make your way to the United States?
I competed in the World Championship in Canada in 2001. I met a lot of coaches from the United States and they asked if I wanted to come to America but I didn’t have money to do so. I also didn’t have a phone and I didn’t have email so I lost contact with all of them.
In 2002 I competed in Manchester and met more coaches. This time I was prepared. I had my email setup; I used my brother’s phone.
I kept in contact and received five scholarships. I decided to go to complete my schooling at Oral Roberts University in Oklahoma.
How was the transition from Zambia to Oklahoma?
It was a big change. Honestly, weather was the worst thing. It was way too cold in January and I had never experienced that type of weather. I wanted to go back home.
I decided to stay and was second in the 800 meter in the NCAA.
And then you qualified for Athens?
When I was still in college I qualified for Athens. It was my first Olympics.
In 2008, I was injured so I wasn’t able to train or qualify for the next Olympics. But before the injury I beat a runner from the Santa Monica Track Club. Joe Douglas, the coach of the team, was surprised I beat this runner and asked if I wanted to come and train with his team. That year I moved from Oklahoma to California.
What was your running career like after moving to California?
I competed in the World Championships in Germany and in South Korea. I was also so excited to qualify for the London Olympics in 2012.
But two days before the race I was training and a guy on his phone walked into the track and I ran right into him. I ran but didn’t run as fast as I could. I came in sixth in my heat but didn’t make the final race.
Mumba sprints in a 800 meter heat during the 2012 London Olympics.
Besides injuries, what other challenges have you had in your running career?
With running, you only get paid once you win. Sometimes you are invited to races, but most of the time you have to pay for yourself to get there. You also need a chiropractor to stay healthy and good, nutritious food. You can’t support yourself financially with running.
I am a head coach at a high school and I drive with Uber to support myself and to pay my bills.
How did you hear about Uber?
I use Uber whenever I need to go to the airport to travel to a race.
I saw how flexible it was and I needed work that I could have that would allow me to travel. I run six days a week and I drive at night when I’m not training.
I also love getting to meet people. I don’t go out a lot so this is the best way for me to meet people in Los Angeles.
And on top of driving with Uber, coaching, and running, you also have a running club?
I don’t want anyone to go through what I did. I had all of the reasons not to make it — no encouragement, no support. But I made it and have a degree and I want to show other kids they can make it too.
Can you tell us a about your GoFundMe campaign?
I am looking to qualify for the Rio Olympics. But it is expensive. It costs a lost to travel to track meets and to compete. Without enough funds, it will be hard for me to travel across the world and then to run in Zambia for the qualifying races.
What do you like to do when you aren’t running, coaching, or driving?
I love playing the keyboard at home. I love music and different beats and learning how to play them.
What advice do you have for people going after their dreams?
The bigger the dream, the bigger the opposition is going to be. The most important thing to do is to stay focused and to not get distracted by things on the side; those are fake voices. Listen to your dream and put your eyes toward that dream. Like a bow and arrow, keep shooting.
Keep up-to-date on Prince Mumba’s training for the Olympics on his GoFundMe Campaign page.