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Runner without country to compete at Olympics

Last Updated: Saturday, July 21, 2012, 22:50
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Runner without country to compete at OlympicsLondon: The IOC has cleared a marathon runner born in what is now South Sudan to compete under the Olympic flag at the London Olympics.

The IOC executive board agreed today to allow US-based Guor Marial -- a former refugee -- to take part as an independent athlete.

"The voice of South Sudan has been heard," Marial told The Associated Press. "The South Sudan has finally got a spot in the world community. Even though I will not carry their flag in this Olympic Games, the country itself is there. The dream has come true. The hope of South Sudan is alive."

Marial has no passport and is not represented by a national Olympic committee. South Sudan gained independence last year after breaking away from Sudan but doesn`t yet have a recognised Olympic body.

Marial moved to the United States as a refugee when he was a child and even though he has permanent residence in the US, he isn`t yet an American citizen.

That meant he was unable to compete for the United States, South Sudan or Sudan, the IOC said, despite qualifying for the Olympics last year.

IOC spokesman Mark Adams said it was the first case of its kind for the Olympics.

When he was 8 years old, Marial escaped child slavery in a labour camp in Sudan. He is now 28 and lives in Flagstaff, Ariz, where he was preparing for training when he heard he was allowed to go to the Olympics.

"I was getting ready to go for a run. Wow. This is so exciting," he said. "It`s hard to describe. I`m speechless. The body temperature is up. I have to train like an Olympian now."

The International Olympic Committee said three athletes from Netherlands Antilles also would be allowed to compete under the Olympic flag in London after the group of islands ceased to be an autonomous country.

Marial ran a time of 2 hours, 14 minutes, 32 seconds at the Twin Cities marathon last year, his first official race, to qualify for the London Games. He has improved on that time since.

A US senator from New Hampshire, where Marial went to high school, also lent support to his Olympic bid. Sen Jeanne Shaheen sent a letter to the IOC appealing for Marial to compete under the Olympic flag.

Agencies

First Published: Saturday, July 21, 2012, 22:50

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