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Senator Shaheen meets with Olympian Guor Marial at her office in Manchester

(Manchester, N.H.) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) today welcomed Olympic athlete Guor Marial back to New Hampshire to congratulate him on his recent participation in the 2012 London Olympic Games. Marial, a refugee who found asylum in New Hampshire after escaping war-torn Sudan, took up competitive track at Concord High School, went to Iowa State on an athletic scholarship, and competed in the marathon in London.

Shaheen supported Marial’s successful bid to compete as an independent athlete after he refused to compete under the flag of Sudan, a country where many of his family members had been tortured or killed. She also spoke on the Senate floor to honor Marial and today presented him with a commemorative copy of her remarks from the Congressional Record.

“The Olympic spirit is one of triumph over adversity, and I have met no one who better embodies that spirit than Guor,” said Senator Shaheen. “When you hear what he has been through, it is difficult to not be inspired by his accomplishments, his tenacity and, most of all, his positive and generous spirit. We are so proud of Guor in New Hampshire and I am thrilled to welcome him back to the Granite State today.”

"I want to simply say thank you from my bottom of my heart to my supporters from across New Hampshire, especially the Concord and Manchester communities, and to Senator Shaheen and her staff for standing behind me throughout my journey to the London Olympics,” said Guor Marial. “Eleven years ago you welcomed me and my uncle's family to your state with all of your heart. You showed me hope and freedom, and you restored the childhood that I lost during the civil war in Sudan. Then you educated me and sent me to college. And then you did not forget me. Instead, you followed my running career throughout college and beyond. This year, you came in collectively, as a state and as a family, and stood behind me. And with your collective voices, you managed to send me to the 2012 London Olympics. Also, New Hampshire, I want to let you know that you not only gave me this opportunity, but you allowed the voice of South Sudan, as a country, to be heard by the world community. For this, your support is not appreciated by me alone, but by the people of South Sudan. You will always have a home in the hearts of South Sudanese. Thank you very much and may God bless the people of New Hampshire and the United States. "

Despite running a qualifying time in only his second marathon, Marial initially believed that he would be unable to compete in the Olympics because he is not a full American citizen and his home country of South Sudan does not have an Olympic team. Upon learning of Marial’s situation, Shaheen sent a letter to the International Olympic Committee urging them to approve his request to compete as an independent athlete running under the Olympic flag.