By Kerlin Hyppolite, Law & Policy
In an Olympic stance against impunity, Guor Marial, a marathon runner originally from the war-torn region of Sudan and South Sudan, refused to represent the brutal Bashir regime that kidnapped him at gunpoint and took him to a labor camp when he was only eight years old. Instead, on Sunday, August 12, he finished the Olympic marathon in 47th place (2:19:32) as an Independent Olympic Athlete, wearing a beaded bracelet with the colors of South Sudan.
“I made it through all the support of the people of South Sudan,” Marial said after the race. “For sure they were proud of me and I am proud of them. They never disappoint me. Finishing, that was more important, and I finished. That was what I was hoping for.”
Young Marial escaped from the labor camp during the night and had to hide in a cave before returning to his home. Then, he was kidnapped again and enslaved for about a year by a Sudanese soldier’s family. Twenty-eight members of Marial’s family died from violence and disease during the unrest in Sudan under Bashir’s regime. Luckily, Marial was able to obtain refugee status in Egypt before arriving in the U.S., where he was granted asylum as a teenager.
After running cross-country and track at his high school in New Hampshire and receiving a athletic scholarship to Iowa State University, Marial moved to Flagstaff, Arizona to train for his Olympic dream, all while vowing to never forget his nightmare.
Marial participated in the 2012 London Games as one of four people competing under the Olympic flag. He opposed running for the Sudanese government responsible for his kidnappings and the death of his family members. He would have preferred to compete for the newly independent State of South Sudan, but unfortunately, the country had yet to establish an Olympic Committee. Thus, he was granted permission by the International Olympic Committee to compete under the Olympic flag.