This year, there will be a first…an independant athlete with no country competing under the Olympic flag.
Guor Marial, a 28 year old marathon runner, will be competing at the London Olympics as an individual athlete. According to Newser, Marial was born in South, Sudan but when he was a teenager, he fled to the United States amidst his nations civil war. Since fleeing to the United States, Marial has blossomed into a very gifted marathon runner. Unfortunately for Marial though, he is not eligible for the US team since he is not a full citizen of the United States.
Marial would love to compete and represent South Sudan, but they just recently became an independent country after breaking away from Sudan and they don’t have an olympic team yet. Sudan has offered for Marial to compete on their Olympic team but Marial refuses. The runner told AlertNet, a humanitarian news service run by Thomson Reuters Foundation,
“I lost my family and relatives, and in South Sudan two million people died.”
“For me to just go and represent Sudan is a betrayal of my country first of all, and is disrespecting my people who died for freedom.”
IOC President Jaqques Rogge has recieved letters from Refugees International, a rights group, requesting that they let Marial compete as an individual athlete for other reasons as well.
“Numerous members of Mr Marial’s family have been killed by Sudanese security forces, and he himself has suffered serious physical abuse at the hands of Sudanese police,” RI President Michel Gabaudan wrote.
“The threats against him are serious and were recognized as such when he gained refugee status in the United States. Therefore, asking Mr Marial to submit once again to Sudanese authority as an Olympic athlete is not acceptable.”
Even though Marial does not have a country to compete under or even a passport, the IOC agreed Saturday to allow Marial to compete as an independent athlete under the Olympic Flag. He qualified for the Olympics by running a marathon in 2 hours, 14 minutes, 32 seconds in 2011, says Newser . He has since approved on his time.
Marial states “My dream is to represent South Sudan, it’s just a matter of time.”