Bizarre late elimination as South Sudan axe sprinter

PERTH • Mangar Makur Chuot, the South Sudanese sprinter who rose from a refugee camp to qualify for the Olympics, has been controversially de-selected by the South Sudan team, without explanation a week before the Games begin.

Chuot has declined to comment, but his coach Lindsay Bunn said South Sudan's selection process for the Games had been tainted, and that ineligible athletes with inferior records had been preferred.

"Mangar is devastated that his selection by the Southern Sudan Athletics Federation has been usurped at the very last minute," he told The Guardian. "Right up until today he has been waiting with his bags packed for his flight details. He learnt of his removal from the selected team by a third party e-mail."

Chuot, now a dual Australian-South Sudanese citizen and based in Perth, Australia, is the reigning South Sudanese national champion in the 200-metre sprint and he holds the national record in the event.

He was the Australian national champion over 200m in 2014, but this year he had chosen to run for his homeland, in honour of his father, Makur Chuot, who was killed during Sudan's bloody civil war.

His personal best time of 20.76 seconds is just 0.26 outside the automatic Games qualifying time.

In December last year, Chuot was officially informed by the South Sudanese Athletics Federation that he would be competing for South Sudan in the country's first Olympics.

He has been issued athlete's accreditation to the Rio Games.

But on Thursday, eight days before the Games opening ceremony, and 14 days before his heat, Chuot received an e-mail informing him that South Sudan's National Olympic Committee had nominated only three athletes for the Games, not including him.

The e-mail said it might be possible for Chuot to attend the Games as a coach or official, but that he would not be competing.

"It's not good, because he's our No. 1.

"Our country needs its best athletes competing, but he is not selected," said Jimmy Long, the secretary of the South Sudanese Athletics Federation.

South Sudan will send three athletes to the Rio Games - 16-year-old Santino Kenyi in the men's 1,500m; Guor Marial, a 33-year-old based in the US who will run his second Olympic marathon; and Margret Rumat Rumar Hassan, a 19-year-old who will run in the women's 200m.

Five more South Sudanese athletes, currently living in Kenyan refugee camps, will compete in Rio as part of the first refugee team.

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 30, 2016, with the headline 'Bizarre late elimination as South Sudan axe sprinter'. Print Edition | Subscribe