Guor Maker has lived an extraordinary life, enslaved twice as a child in Sudan, the 2-time Olympian has just joined the US Air Force to give back.
After enduring countless hardships, which includes escaping slavery twice, Maker went on to earn a college education, competed in the Olympics twice, and has now joined the United States Air Force.
Guor Maker, left home at the age of seven to live with his uncle in northern Sudan. In 1994, at the age of nine, he fled from a refugee camp during the Sudanese Civil War. While 28 members of his family were killed during the conflict, he was able to escape to Egypt, and then permanently to the United States.
“When I was captured, I was forced to be a slave laborer.”
“I would wash dishes or do anything else needed to get by. I slept in a small cell and rarely got to eat…but not always.”
He was granted refugee status by the United States when he was 16, and now lives and trains in Flagstaff, Arizona. Maker had previously used his uncle’s surname (Marial) when he moved to the U.S. but reverted to his father’s name (Mading Maker Deng) when he was sworn in as a U.S. citizen.
“I was very excited to come to the U.S. Looking back at everything my family and I endured, it is a miracle that we made it out of there.”
Once in the U.S.A, Maker promised himself that he would give his future children a better childhood than he had.
“And the only way to do that was through education and determination,” he said.
While learning English was a crucial step on his personal journey, Maker’s high school career really took off when one of his teachers introduced him to competitive running.
He began participating in track and field while attending high school in Concord, New Hampshire, after being encouraged by his gym teacher and also competed in college at Iowa State, where he was an All-American athlete.
Maker fulfilled the A-qualification standard for the marathon in October 2011, allowing him to participate in the Olympic marathon event at the 2012 Summer Olympics.
He was one of four athletes competing in the 2012 Summer Olympics under the Olympic flag rather than that of an individual country.
The National Olympic Committee of Sudan offered to allow Maker to compete as a member of the Sudanese team, however he rejected this offer, saying:
“It’s not right for me to do that. It’s not right for me to represent the country I refuged from.
“f I ran for Sudan, I would be betraying my people. I would be dishonoring the two million people who died for our freedom.”
The IOC-executive board announced its decision on 20 July to allow Maker to participate as an Independent Olympic Athlete.
Maker finished 47th in the marathon, with a time of 2:19:32 and although his parents survived the civil war, at the time of the 2012 Olympics he had not seen them in 20 years. However he returned to South Sudan in 2013 and was reunited with his parents. Tragically, eight of his brothers and sisters were killed in the war.
At 33, Maker is now a dental assistant currently in technical training, according to an Air Force press release.
“All of the things I’ve accomplished have derived from the opportunities the U.S. has afforded me,”
“When I first came to America, I didn’t have hardly anything, but with the support and opportunity this country has given me, I’ve been able to completely change my life.”
Maker hopes to join the Air Force World Class Athlete Program and eventually make the 2020 Olympics where he’ll have the opportunity to represent his new home and the country that gave him so much, the release said.
“Joining the greatest Air Force in the world has been an absolute miracle,” said Maker. “I can’t wait to see what this next chapter holds for me.”