South Sudan runner bids for place

Guor Marial was born in southern Sudan at the start of the conflict and hopes to run independently.

Curved athletics track. Picture: sxc.hu.

LONDON - A refugee from Sudan's civil war who became a top distance runner after moving to the United States is fighting for last-minute permission to compete in the London Olympics as an independent athlete.

Guor Marial, 28, who was born in southern Sudan at the start of the conflict, would have liked to run the marathon for South Sudan, which became an independent country last year.

The world's newest country has not yet established a National Olympic Committee, however, so it cannot send a team to the Games, which opens next week.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has suggested that Marial runs for Sudan, which has invited him to join their team.

Marial, who lost 28 members of his family in the war, has refused.

"I lost my family and relatives, and in South Sudan two million people died," he said by telephone from Flagstaff, Arizona, where he lives.

"For me to just go and represent Sudan is a betrayal of my country first of all, and is disrespecting my people who died for freedom."

South Sudan gained independence last July after a 2005 peace deal ended more than two decades of war between the mostly Christian south and Arab north. Tensions remain high following clashes in contested borderlands and rows over oil payments.