South Sudanese to compete in the Olympics

Guor Marial is an Olympian, but he won’t be representing his country – on paper, at least. Marial is South Sudanese, the world’s youngest nation. Since South Sudan has yet to establish a national Olympic committee, its citizens can compete in the Olympic Games only as Independent Olympic Athletes.

Since he fled from his homeland back in 1993, Marial has been to a multitude of countries. He has been based in the United States since being granted asylum in 2001. The 28-year South Sudanese graduated from the Iowa State University in 2011, earning All-American honors.

According to the CNN interview, Marial refused offers from the Sudanese athletics federation to compete under the Sudanese flag: “Never. For me to even consider that is a betrayal. My family lost 28 members in the war with Sudan. Millions of my people were killed by Sudan forces. I can only forgive, but I cannot honor and glorify a country that killed my people.”

Interestingly, Marial is listed as a Sudanese national in his IAAF biography.

Marial is an elite athlete and not just a token bet. He has a personal best of 2:14:32 from 2011, set on a flat course. Marial had run 2:12:55 this year, albeit on a downhill course in San Diego. His times are still far off from Kenyan Ayele Abshero’s world leading 2:04:23, so a podium finish is not really realistic.

Should Marial be able to fix his U.K. and U.S. travel documents, his presence in the London Games would nevertheless be an achievement in itself – for both Marial and his young country.


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