Road to Rio: Perth sprinter to represent Olympics first-timer South Sudan

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Perth sprinter Mangar Makur Chuot will represent South Sudan at the upcoming Rio Olympics. He plans on dedicating his performance to his father who died during the country's long struggle for independence.

One of Australia’s top sprinters, Mangar Makur Chuot, 26, is in training to compete at the upcoming Rio Olympics for the country of his origin - South Sudan.

The Perth resident, who was crowned Australia's 200m champion in 2014 and the holder of multiple Western Australian sprinting championships, could possibly run in the 200m sprint against world-record holder Usain Bolt.

But, it will be his father, uncles and mother who will be on his mind when he first steps out into Rio's Maracanã Stadium for the opening ceremony.

He will be marching for a country that his father, Makur Chuot, gave his life for and for which his mother sacrificed so much.

“For a (South Sudan) flag to be up there, it’s the biggest achievement,” he said.

“For us to be in the race, given a shot for the first time, it’s going to give a lot of confidence for other people who want to do it.

“And it will give a boost to a new country to look forward to something.

“My dad fought for South Sudan and he was killed in the war, so it’s kind of an honour for him.

“It’s the first time for them (South Sudan) in the Olympics because they’re only five years old in July so this is something that’s very special for them.”

Chuot’s father was killed in 1997 in the conflict for South Sudan to gain independence.

His mother, Helena Yar, had been forced to walk across two countries with his younger sister, Susan, to the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya.

It took her years to save enough money for her young son to secure a seat on a cargo plane to bring him to the relative safety of the refugee camp.

They would spend nine years there before Australia accepted them in 2005.

“My dad was a very good role model and from the stories we hear about him, it motivates us to do more,” Chuot said.

“And, my mum who did the role of father and mother, did all that, and she suffered a lot for us.

“That is something that gave us a lot of courage to do better, to atleast try to save her in a way that she can be in a better place when she’s getting older.”

Australia was salvation for the family, but sport has offered the family much more.

His sister Susan is a member of Western Australia's under-23 female AFL side.

Chuot’s first taste of professional sprinting was six years ago at a local athletics program for disadvantaged youth - a meet his two sisters had been attending.

It was headed by top coach Lindsay Bunn who wanted to give multicultural and Indigenous children the opportunity to learn elite athletics skills.

“Well, he was a very raw talent and he wasn’t very quick,” Mr Bunn said.

“It’s public knowledge now how I described him to another coach that evening after I’d seen him run, I described him as a giraffe on amphetamines.

“But I could tell more from his attitude and his intensity that he had a talent.

“He’s probably learnt the technical aspects of sprinting better than anyone I’ve ever coached.

“The speed, once he learnt to run properly, it exploded out of him, world-class speed.”

Mr Bunn said his charge, who finds time to professionally DJ as well as study a Bachelor of Audio degree, had the potential to win a medal whether at this year’s Olympics, or the next in Tokyo.

But, he will be watching from a monitor elsewhere in the venue, not trackside.

“For a coach, it’s actually a very nerve-wracking experience and it’s work,” he said.

“Even when athletes win major races, the overwhelming experience is one of relief because you have an expectation that they will win and therefore you’re just relieved that nothing went wrong.”

Chout’s first taste of international experience will be later this month when he competes at the Africa Senior Championships in Durban, South Africa.

It will be an invaluable opportunity before he takes on the world’s very best in Rio.

“We’re going to go alright,”Chuot said.

“We’re going to do what we can.

“It’s the biggest I’ve done, but now going to experience different countries and other athletes that you don’t know before is really something special.”

Mr Bunn said Chuot had come far.

“His life experience is nothing like this,” he said.

“It’s an incredible credit to him, for a kid who started school at 12, is about to finish a university degree and he’s off to the Olympics.”

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