When marathon runner Guor Marial lines up at the start of the marathon race at the London 2012 Olympic Games on Sunday, he will already have an inspiring story to tell before the race even begins. Guor is one of four Independent Olympic Athletes (IOA) who
First marathon with A standard
Guor was born in what is now South Sudan, which does not currently have a recognised National Olympic Committee (NOC). He does not hold a passport from any country and is a permanent resident (refugee-status green card) of the United States, but not a citizen. As such, he is unable to compete for the United States, South Sudan or Sudan. Guor qualified for the Games with an A Standard time on 2 October 2011 when he ran the Twin Cities Marathon in Minneapolis in 2:14:32 – his first marathon ever. He even topped this time on 3 June 2012, when he finished the Rock N’ Roll San Diego Marathon in 2:12:55. The IOC got to know the details of Guor’s situation only in July and it approved his participation less than a week before the Opening Ceremony.
Running to escape
At a press conference today he said, with a big smile: “I am representing the world”. When asked how he got into professional running and if he liked it from the beginning, he explained that, due to his background as a refugee, running had not always had a positive connotation for him: “Running is something I used to do to escape”, he said before continuing: “Now if you ask me not to run for one day, I can’t. I love it and it is a really good exercise.”
Life in the Olympic Village
As Guor is not part of an official delegation, he has a personal advisor to assist him during his time in London. When asked today how it is to wake up in the Olympic Village and meet some of the famous athletes, he said: “It is great and a really good feeling. You wake up and then you see big names like Usain Bolt – it is just amazing, incredible and gives me lots of motivation.”
Other athletes who took part under the Olympic flag in previous Olympic Games include athletes from East Timor, in Sydney in 2000, and athletes from Yugoslavia, in Barcelona in 1992. In London, three athletes from the Netherlands Antilles are also competing under the Olympic flag as their NOC was dissolved last year.