South Sudanese marathoner without a country makes Olympic debut
August 16, 2012 -- Updated 0852 GMT (1652 HKT)
- "Even if I am not going to carry or wear the flag, I will be the flag of my nation," he says
- Guor Marial competes under Olympic flag
- The marathoner was born in what is now South Sudan
- He does not have a passport
(CNN) -- Guor Marial made his debut in the London Games on Sunday, a major accomplishment for the South Sudanese marathoner who ran as an independent in the Olympics.
Marial, 28, pounded his way around the 26.2-mile course in 2:19:32. He finished 47th in the race dominated by fellow Africans Stephen Kiprotich of Uganda, who won gold, and Kenyans Abel Kirui and Wilson Kiprotich, who won silver and bronze, respectively.
But for Marial, completing the race was as good as winning.
The marathoner was born in what is now South Sudan, which split from Sudan last year after years of conflict between the two that left millions dead.
Though he is a permanent resident of the United States, where he fled 11 years ago to escape the bloody conflict, he is not an American citizen and thus cannot compete under its flag.
He does not have a passport for South Sudan, either, and cannot compete for his homeland. And even if he had one, the world's newest nation was not eligible for the Olympics this year because it does not have a Games committee.
Since he qualified for the marathon but could not run for both nations, the International Olympic Committee granted him permission to run as an independent.
He donned a gray and black uniform with IOA -- Independent Olympic Athlete -- printed on it.
"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," he said before the race.
Marial left home in 1993. His story of survival from the war has taken him across different countries, including Egypt, where he sought refuge before the United States granted him asylum in 2001.
He attended high school in New Hampshire, where he gave competitive running a try after years of "running away from conflict," he said.
He later went to Iowa State University, where he had an athletic scholarship and was an All-American cross-country runner.
The Olympian has not seen his parents since 1993, when he first fled what is now South Sudan. But on Sunday, they planned to catch a glimpse of their son on television after nearly two decades.
"I'm hoping they will at least see me run in the Olympics," Marial said last month. "They live in a village with no electricity and no televisions. But they planned to walk to the nearest big town about 40 miles away so that they can watch me on television."
Today's five most popular stories
Part of complete coverage on
August 13, 2012 -- Updated 1353 GMT (2153 HKT)
The moment that Team GB's Mo Farah won the 10,000 meters was a wonderful collision of electricity.
August 13, 2012 -- Updated 1534 GMT (2334 HKT)
His blistering pace and larger-than-life antics made him the king of the track in London, and bolstered his claims to be a "living legend."
August 14, 2012 -- Updated 0944 GMT (1744 HKT)
The Olympics are generally won and lost long before the opening ceremony cauldron is touched by fire.
August 12, 2012 -- Updated 0738 GMT (1538 HKT)
CNN's Richard Quest believes the London Games will be regarded as having brought the Olympics concept home.
August 11, 2012 -- Updated 1633 GMT (0033 HKT)
Strategist Alastair Campbell says he never imagined London 2012 would be quite the triumph it turned out to be.
August 14, 2012 -- Updated 2057 GMT (0457 HKT)
Award-winning director Danny Boyle celebrates the best of British music in London 2012's Olympic Closing Ceremony.
January 31, 2013 -- Updated 1452 GMT (2252 HKT)
From Usain Bolt's record-setting achievements to an unexpected Ugandan gold, London 2012 has provided a wide array of highlights.
August 13, 2012 -- Updated 0305 GMT (1105 HKT)
CNN's Amanda Davies recaps the London 2012 Olympics from the opening ceremony on July 27 to the finale on day 16.
August 12, 2012 -- Updated 1702 GMT (0102 HKT)
It's been just over two weeks since the Queen parachuted into London's Olympic Stadium, her apricot dress flapping in the breeze.
August 15, 2012 -- Updated 1214 GMT (2014 HKT)
When the world's top marathon runners bid to win Olympic gold, they would do well to draw inspiration from one of the greatest athletes in the history of track and field.
August 11, 2012 -- Updated 1633 GMT (0033 HKT)
Alastair Campbell always thought London 2012 would be a success, but never imagined it would be quite the triumph it has turned out to be.
August 10, 2012 -- Updated 1021 GMT (1821 HKT)
Adrien Niyonshuti is unlikely to win an Olympic medal, and he will do well to even finish his event, but his story is surely one of the most inspirational.
August 10, 2012 -- Updated 1605 GMT (0005 HKT)
Olympic fever has cheered up London and made it a more welcoming place, but will optimism be one of the legacies of the Games?
August 10, 2012 -- Updated 1825 GMT (0225 HKT)
London 2012 is the first Olympics to feature women in every national team, with Jacques Rogge hailing a "major boost for gender equality."
August 10, 2012 -- Updated 0040 GMT (0840 HKT)
An impoverished South Korean gymnast has not only struck Olympic gold, but also reaped a $444,000 donation in a veritable rags to riches tale.
August 9, 2012 -- Updated 0046 GMT (0846 HKT)
Britain's hero Jessica Ennis is set to cash in after winning heptathlon gold, but the poster girl of the 2012 Olympics says fame is not her motivation.
August 8, 2012 -- Updated 0746 GMT (1546 HKT)
China is rallying around fallen hurdler Liu Xiang after he failed to make it past the first-round heat for a second consecutive Olympics.
August 3, 2012 -- Updated 1930 GMT (0330 HKT)
The first woman to win Olympic gold almost died in a plane crash, but remarkably returned to run again for the U.S. in 1936.
August 7, 2012 -- Updated 1504 GMT (2304 HKT)
Don Paige could not bear to watch the race he knew he could win. The 1980 Moscow Olympics were the death of a dream for many athletes.
August 4, 2012 -- Updated 1421 GMT (2221 HKT)
While Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt grab the headlines, little-known athletes from around the world keep alive the original spirit of the Olympics.
Athletes spend years eating the right foods ... and then must resist the free fast food in the Olympic village. How do they do it?