South Sudan honours country’s top athlete and beauty queen
September 1, 2012 (JUBA) – Guor Marial, the South Sudanese marathon runner who participated at the London 2012 Olympic Games as an independent athelete, was on Friday honoured by the South Sudanese government.
Guor Marial outside the Olympic Village in London the day after running in the London 2012 marathon. 13 August 2012 (Tom Law/ST)
Marial, fled from South Sudan’s Unity State during the civil war sought asylum in the United States of America. He was unable to represent South Sudan as the year-old nation does not have an Olympic Committee so was invited to run as an Independent Olympic Athlete.
During the London world Olympic Games last month the young South Sudanese received extensive media coverage due to his inspirational story. His participation seemed unlikely at first as he turned down the opportunity to run for Sudan. Marial’s press coverage led the International Olympic Committee to grant him special status so he could compete.
Marial came a respectable 47th out of a field of over a hundred with a time of 2:19:32, which way over his personal best as he was at the wrong stage of his training cycle due to his last minute entry to the Games.
The day after his race Marial told Sudan Tribune that he "wished it was a race [he] had prepared for. That would have been much better" but added that in this case finishing was "just as important" as it put the young nation on the international sporting map for the first time.
Despite wearing the Olympic colours Marial wore a bead-woven bracelet bearing the flag of South Sudan during his participation in the London games. Now aiming for the Rio de Janeiro Games in 2016 Marial hopes to run wearing the national colours of South Sudan.
Marial believes that had he rained and prepared properly he could have finished in the top ten positions.
On Friday the South Sudan’s cabinet resolved to honour and support the young athlete for the next games as well encourages others with various talents in sports to develop such promising talents.
Minister of Information and official spokesman of the government, Barnaba Marial Benjamin, told Sudan Tribune that the government was ready to receive Marial should he decide to visit the country in the near future.
Marial also added that another achievement which brought smile on the faces of South Sudanese is the fact that Atong Demach, a young lady from Jonglei state, has came 4th in this year’s Miss World Contest in China, coming first among the nations from African.
Miss World contestent, South Sudan’s Atong Demach, poses for a photo as she waits backstage prior to a rehearsal for the final ceremony at the Ordos Stadium Arena in the inner Mongolian city of Ordos on August 17, 2012. (Getty)
Miss Atong, who is currently in Juba, will hold the position for one year after which another beauty contest shall take place. Minister Marial said the cabinet resolved to present her with a prize in recognition of her achievement.
He said the government is proud of the two young talented South Sudanese for helping putting the young nation on the world map.