FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — When Guor Marial was 8, he sprinted through the darkness with the hope of escaping child slavery at a labor camp in Sudan.
Running then became something that brought back tragic memories.
As a refugee in the United States years later, he made a discovery: He was good at running long distances, and he could run them fast.
The Sudanese marathoner was to board a plane from Arizona on Thursday bound for London, where he will compete as an independent athlete at the Olympics. A runner without a country to call his own, he hopes he can use his Olympic moment to become a symbol of hope.
Marial qualified for the Olympics last year while running his first-ever marathon, but he couldn’t compete for the United States because he’s a permanent resident but not yet a citizen. He learned just weeks ago that he’d be able to compete, running under the Olympic flag. He turned down an offer to run for Sudan because he couldn’t fathom representing a country in which so many Sudanese have suffered, including his own family members, and from which he fled as a boy. His native South Sudan — the world’s newest country — doesn’t