With the London 2012 Olympics well underway, millions of people around the worlds are cheering proudly for their countries.
When the commentators announce competitors by their name and country, residual cheers from the athlete’s home country can still be heard minutes later.
But what happens when your country has not yet formed a National Olympic Committee? Marathon runner Guor Marial discovered this at this year’s games.
CNN reports that Marial is a “runner without a country,” but that couldn’t be more false. Marial proudly represents South Sudan as an independent in this year’s Olympic games.
In a triumphant albeit violent victory, South Sudan finally seceded from Sudan in 2011. The civil war tore apart the lives of peoples from both nations. Fighting is still high in disputed areas along the border.
Guor Marial was kidnapped during the war as a young boy and escaped along with another boy a few days later. “When the sun came up, we started running…and we walk, we ran, we walk, we ran,” Marial said.
“I was appreciating the running because the running allowed me to escape,” he said. “When I left Sudan, I said I will never, never run again, because I thought running is only for me to save my life.”
Granted asylum in the United States in 2001, Marial revisited the idea of running for sport.
Marial was unable to represent the United States in the games because he has not yet received his US citizenship. Refusing to represent Sudan, he said: “If I ran for Sudan, I would be betraying my people. I would be dishonoring the two million people who died for our freedom. I want to bring honor to my country. People who just want glory, the spotlight of the Olympics, they don’t care about other people. I’m fighting for independent status because I do care. When I run, I want people to see me and say, ‘He is from South Sudan.’”
Although Marial will not be able to carry the flag of South Sudan or hear the country’s anthem if he wins gold, he is still one of the proudest competitors.
Marial competes in the big marathon on August 12. We at Face2face Africa stand with this brave and incredible young man, and we wish him luck!
photo credit: Darryl Webb/Reuters