23rd July, 2012
Guor Marial ran for his life to escape a Sudanese child labor camp. Now he will get to run at the Olympics.
Despite having no passport and officially no country – and at one time very little hope – the 28-year-old marathoner was cleared by the IOC to compete at the London Games under the Olympic flag.
Marial – who was born in what is now South Sudan, a newly independent African country that doesn’t yet have a national Olympic body – was one of four competitors let in at the London Games as independent athletes.
Marial’s heartwarming rise from a fearful kid who hid in a cave, fled his war-torn homeland and finally arrived in the United States as a refugee took another incredible turn on Saturday with his Olympic opportunity.
‘The voice of South Sudan has been heard,’ Marial told The Associated Press from his home in Flagtaff, Arizona. ‘The South Sudan has finally got a spot in the world community. Even though I will not carry their flag in this Olympic Games, the country itself is there.
‘The dream has come true. The hope of South Sudan is alive.’
Three others from Netherlands Antilles also were allowed to take part under the Olympic flag, but the case of Marial was the first of its kind at the Olympics, IOC spokesman Mark Adams said.
‘He’s actually running times I’m told wouldn’t get him a medal but could get him in the top 10 to 20,’ Adams said. ‘He’s come from out of nowhere. He’s done two times, one of 2:14 and one of 2:12. Amazing.’
Marial posted the Olympic qualifying time in his first ever marathon last year after being a cross-country runner at Iowa State University. He will get a chance to test himself against the best in the world in the Olympic marathon on Aug. 12, the last day of the games.
But Marial has less than a week to get to London so he can march at the opening ceremony at the Olympic Stadium and be part of the first day.
‘I think they (his entourage and backers in the U.S.) will move heaven and earth for him to get here for the ceremony,’ Adams said.