Root for Team USA, sure, but save a spot for Guor Marial, too. The marathon runner will compete as an independent athlete—a first—and run under the Olympic flag, reports the AP. The IOC made an exception given Marial's circumstances: He was born in southern Sudan but fled to the US as a teenager amid his nation's civil war, explains Reuters. He blossomed into a gifted runner, but the Arizona resident is ineligible for the US team because he's not a full citizen.
South Sudan recently became an independent country, but it doesn't yet have an Olympic team. Sudan offered Marial a spot, but he declined on principle. "I lost my family and relatives, and in South Sudan 2 million people died," he told Thomson Reuters' AlertNet. "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." An IOC spokesman says Marial's is the first such exception granted.