South Sudan's Marial 'overjoyed' at Olympics chance

Guor Marial, 28, runs along a street in Flagstaff, Arizona, on 21 July 2012
Image caption Guor Marial qualified to run in the Olympics in his first-ever marathon last year

South Sudanese athlete Guor Marial has told the BBC he is overjoyed to be able to take part in the London 2012 marathon under the Olympic flag.

The International Olympic Committee chose Marial, 28, to run as an independent as the new nation of South Sudan is yet to join the movement.

He refused an offer to run for Sudan - the bitter enemy of South Sudanese during a decades-long civil war.

The athlete lost 28 relatives during the conflict.

South Sudan seceded from Sudan last July following a peace deal in 2005 which ended the civil war in which some 1.5 million people died.

'Feeling great'

Marial told the BBC's Newsday programme it was a huge honour to go to the Games and sport should be a positive force for the new state, which is facing numerous problems since independence.

"I'm feeling great to be able to bring the name of South Sudan [to the Olympics] and to represent them," he said from his training base in Arizona in the US.

He said people in South Sudan, which does not yet have an Olympic body, were probably happier than he was at his opportunity.

Marial was one of four athletes chosen by the IOC to run in the London 2012 Games as independent athletes.

He is a permanent resident of the US after arriving as a refugee when he was a child, however, he does not have US citizenship.

Marial qualified to run in the Olympics in his first-ever marathon last year after being a cross-country runner at Iowa State University.

He will get a chance to test himself against the best in the world in the Olympic marathon on 12 August, the last day of the Games.

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