Runner without a country gets OK to compete

Published: Sunday, Jul. 22, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 4C
Last Modified: Monday, Aug. 13, 2012 - 1:44 pm

LONDON – Guor Marial ran for his life to escape a Sudanese child labor camp. Now he will get to run in the Olympics.

Marial's heartwarming rise from a fearful kid who hid in a cave, fled his war-torn homeland when he was 8 and finally arrived in the United States as a refugee took another incredible turn Saturday.

Despite having no passport and officially no country – and at one time very little hope – the 28-year-old marathoner was cleared by the International Olympic Committee to compete at the London Games under the Olympic flag.

"The voice of South Sudan has been heard," Marial told the Associated Press from his home in Flagstaff, Ariz. "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."

Marial – who was born in what is now South Sudan, a newly independent African country that doesn't yet have a national Olympic body – was one of four competitors let in at the London Games as independent athletes. Three others from Netherlands Antilles also were allowed to take part under the Olympic flag, but the case of Marial was the first of its kind at the Olympics, IOC spokesman Mark Adams said.

"He's actually running times I'm told wouldn't get him a medal but could get him in the top 10 to 20," Adams said. "He's come from out of nowhere. He's done two times, one of 2:14 and one of 2:12. Amazing."

The IOC's executive board gave Marial a chance after he didn't qualify for Sudan, South Sudan or the United States under its rules. He's a permanent resident of the United States after arriving as a refugee when he was a child but doesn't yet have American citizenship.

No Munich moment – IOC President Jacques Rogge said there will be no minute's silence for the Israeli victims of the 1972 Munich massacre at the Opening Ceremony of the London Olympics.

Rogge rejected the latest calls for a special observance to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the murder of 11 Israeli athletes and coaches by Palestinian gunmen at the Munich Games.

"We feel that the Opening Ceremony is an atmosphere that is not fit to remember such a tragic incident," Rogge said.

The IOC has come under pressure from politicians in the United States, Israel and Germany to pay tribute to the slain Israelis during Friday's ceremony.

Rogge said the IOC will honor them at a reception in London during the Games on Aug. 6. He said IOC officials also will attend a ceremony in Germany on Sept. 5, the anniversary of the attack, at the military airfield of Furstenfeldbruck where most of the Israelis died.

On another issue, Rogge said the IOC will investigate athletes who pull out of competing against Israelis in London claiming they were injured. In the past, athletes from Iran have withdrawn from events that included Israelis without facing sanctions.

Women's basketball – Sylvia Fowles scored 15 points and Candace Parker 14 to lead a balanced U.S. offense in the Americans' 109-55 win over Croatia in an exhibition game in Istanbul.

The contest marked the return of Sue Bird to the team. She left the women's basketball squad Sunday after the death of her stepfather, Dennis, and missed the team's exhibition wins over Brazil and Britain.

With the two-time Olympic point guard back, the offense clicked. The Americans overwhelmed Croatia, building a 62-23 halftime advantage in which they shot 57 percent from the field.

The teams will meet again in the Olympic opener July 28. The United States will play Turkey today in the Americans' final exhibition.

U.S. runner loses gold – The IOC stripped U.S. runner Crystal Cox of her gold medal from the 4x400-meter relay at the 2004 Athens Olympics for doping.

Cox admitted in 2010 to using anabolic steroids.

The IOC executive board formally disqualified Cox and took away her medal Saturday. However, the IOC left it up to the International Association of Athletics Federations whether to disqualify the U.S. team from the gold.

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