When I think of Olympic athletes, I think of individuals who have given up a great deal to be extremely good at their sport. In exchange for athletic excellence, they’ve given up pop culture, time with family, and other hobbies and interests to focus on one thing. So when an athlete comes to the Olympics who has also faced great challenge in addition to the discipline of their sport, I am utterly amazed. Guor Marial, who will be running under the Olympic flag on Saturday in the Marathon, is one such athlete.
At the age of 8 years old Guor, was kidnapped during the Sudanese Civil War and thrown into a labor camp. But he was the lucky one. As the forces killed 28 members of his family, he was able to escape to Egypt and then to the US. Guor is now a permanent resident in the U.S. and was All-American at Iowa State.
However when he qualified for the Olympic Marathon, the U.S. was not able to add him to our team. Without U.S. citizenship and South Sudan (the newest country in the world) without an Olympic Committee, Guor’s only option was to run under the Sudanese flag. However, he immediately rejected their offer saying, “If I ran for Sudan, I would be betraying my people. I would be dishonoring the two million people who died for our freedom.”
After appealing to the IOC, Guor was just accepted to run under the Olympic flag on July 20th. He was unable to get the paperwork in time to participate in the Opening Ceremonies but he is now in London preparing for his race tomorrow and being swarmed by the media. Guor will probably not win tomorrow but he is thankful for the opportunity. “The most amazing part, the best part, is just that I’m here,” he says. “It feels like the entire world brought me here.” And at the very least, he hopes that his run tomorrow helps set up South Sudan for success in 2016.
Olympic Sport: Marathon
Hometown: Panrieng, South Sudan
Birthdate: April 15, 1984 (age 28)
Height: 5’11” (12 inches tall than me)
Weight: 130 lbs.