Marathon runners are an independent breed, but that’s particularly the case for Guor Marial, who marched in last night’s opening ceremonies under the Olympic banner rather than that of a country. Though each athlete is a shining symbol of overcoming physical and mental limitations to reach the top of their game, the story of Marial will make it hard not to throw your support behind him and give him a home in your heart.
Though South Sudan, where Marial was born and from which he fled at the tender age of nine, is now the world’s youngest country, it does not yet have a team of its own. He was extended an invitation from the Sudan Olympic Committee, but the now permanent resident of the U.S. firmly declined.
“Never,” he said of his refusal to run for Sudan. “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…”
“…The fact that I will be in the Olympics means a lot not just to me, but to my country, which has gone through so much,” he said in a phone call from Flagstaff, Arizona, where he is training. “Even if I am not going to carry or wear the flag, I will be the flag of my nation. South Sudan will be in my heart.”
We wish him the wind at his back.
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