LONDON (Reuters) - South Sudan marathon runner Guor Marial will represent people all over the world when he competes at the London Games running under the Olympic flag, he said on Friday.
South Sudan, the world’s newest country which was recognized only last year, has not yet established a national Olympic Committee and so was not able to send a team to the Games.
“I came here because all the world came together to support me. It’s possible because of everyone,” the 28-year-old, the only athlete taking part from South Sudan, told reporters on arriving at Heathrow Airport.
“I‘m very excited because I get to represent the different countries and different continents - the supporters from the U.S. and South Sudan and all the friends all over the world.”
Marial moved to the United States as a 16-year-old and has permanent resident status there, although he is not a citizen.
The International Olympic Committee had initially suggested Marial run for Sudan, but the runner, who lost 28 members of his family in the civil war, refused.
Sudan and South Sudan came close to all-out war in April following border clashes, the worst violence since South Sudan seceded and declared its independence from Khartoum a year ago under a 2005 peace agreement that ended decades of civil war.
Marial was just happy to be in a different environment and cannot wait to run in the marathon on August 12.
“It’s unusual for me, it’s something new,” he said, his eyes beaming towards the lights of the cameras.
“It’s great to see a lot of people out here, being moved by my story, my case. I love the support and I‘m sure I‘m going to get a lot of support here.”
Marial achieved the Olympic qualification time in October last year and improved his personal best in San Diego, California last month, finishing in two hours 12 minutes 55 seconds.
He joins 400 meters runner Liemarvin Bonevacia, judoka Reginald de Windt and sailor Philipine van Aanholt, all from the former Netherlands Antilles, to compete under the Olympic flag.
Writing by Tom Pilcher, Editing by Mark Trevelyan