Golly I really adore the Olympics!
One thing that I think some people do not understand is how much some of these events, most of them, I think, are really decided by chance on that day. In many of the sprints, for example, you have a field of people who have all run about the same speed give or take a few hundreths of seconds. Throughout a year if they race each other, they will have differing outcomes…but then as they hit the Olympic stage…the person who has the best day ON THAT DAY…is suddenly crowned “The Best of all time” It definitely showed in the Womens Gymnastics with Poor Jordyn Weiber. She was the Champion coming in and then on qualifying night..she was just a few points short of her teammates. Then we watched as her team mates had some difficulties on events on some days. Would Weiber have had the same trouble, well, we won’t know, and we do know on other days, Douglas has hit that routine cold.
On top of it all, I keep having this thought in the back of my head when the announcer is saying, “Usain Bolt is the fastest sprinter of all time” That there are people out there, probably running faster than any of those guys- who either don’t care to be clocked, or are entirely unaware of or unable to participate.
So, while we have seen some really great performances, I have to admit, I like to celebrate some of the participants that are not that well known, ones who do not have a medal chance, and ones who have taught me some lessons.
Much has been made of The Blade Runner…Oscar Pistorius. I really think he is one of the coolest people on the planet. I’ve been impressed at his positive mental state and his athleticism. But as great as he is, he’s not the one I want to highlight.
It’s all about the Marathon!
And the Athlete without a country.
With unrest in the world, there have been a few changing countries over time, and when countries become independent, it takes some time to get things together. Infrastructure, like roads, power, schools tend to be priorities, rather than sending out an Olympic team. This year there were 4 athletes competing under the Olympic flag. one of them lives in the US. and He is a Really REALLY incredible. young man.
Guor Mariel is from South Sudan. This of course hit me right in the heart. Given the time I spent in South Sudan, I of course was instantly curious about this guy when I saw the name, it’s really a very S. Sudanese name…obviously not American.
He lives in the US now. He has for several years, completed High school here and ran for Iowa state. For whatever reason, he does not qualify for US citizenship. So he is still a citizen of South Sudan.
While at Iowa State Marial got a BS in Chemistry, not exactly a “Jock Subject”. He then moved out to Flagstaff and has been training without a coach, and running some really nice fast times, and ENJOYING it.
After running one Marathon in a nice fast pace, he met a California attorney Brad Poore. Brad is a wonderful person who followed through after meeting Marial. he wrote letters upon letters. Without Brad, none of us could have the experience of “knowing Marial”. So Shout out to Brad!
When Marial posted the super fast times…Sudan….not South Sudan, reached out and offered Marial a spot to represent Sudan at the Olympics. This to me was astounding. As Noted in the Miami Herald….
The offer was particularly strange because the Sudanese government is in the process of trying to expel hundreds of thousands of southern refugees from its land on the grounds that the war is over. Many of them left the south decades ago and are uncertain about returning. If the Khartoum government follows through on its threat, these refugees could become stateless.
Seems a little strange to me.
Guor Marial really had a choice to make. He had an opportunity to run in the Olympic games, and to possibly be celebrated as a hero…in Sudan. Some people might have taken that opportunity, hoping for the opportunities that the games can bring. If he had done this, I really think it would have been like selling his soul. But we have seen SO MANY do just that in sport. (There are so many stories of athletes moving to different countries for a better chance at competing in the Olympics) He instead refused, and apparently refused very gracefully. As graceful as it was, he still stood up for what he knows is right (I am biased here, but I’ve been there, right smack in the middle of the war, so I have a bit of a right to my bias), and I love that he gave the North a nice, firm, polite slap in the face.
Handily, the IOC decided that it was acceptable to allow him to compete under the IOC flag. Marial did not even know of the approval until a few days before the games…not exactly the way to prepare for a LONG 26.2 mile race. He was held up and unable to attend the Opening Ceremonies…But he is there now…
I know someone is going to win the Men’s Marathon. It probably won’t be Guor Marial. But I don’t care. He’s the athlete that most inspires me this time around.
And here is the quote from him…(from the Twin Cities Star Tribune) that really sealed the deal for me.
He explained that he used to hate running. It was connected with violence and danger when he was growing up.
Running “is something I used to do to escape for my life,” he said.
“But now if you tell me not to run one day, it’s impossible for me. I have to run. Maybe when I’m 80, I’ll stop running,” Marial added.