When you think of the Olympics, what comes to mind?
Most would say gold medals, the Olympic rings, the chase for world records, or the pride in one's country. While I share in all of those things, what strikes me the strongest and stays with me beyond the games are the stories.
The Olympics are like any sport. There are underdog stories, team triumph, the agony of defeat and collapse, and the stories built by dominant performances like that of Michael Phelps.
But it's the stories that transcend sports that hit me the hardest, and one such tale has already begun to unfold before the games have even started.
A man who once literally ran for his life will now run for the pride of all who suffer in his native South Sudan. Except this time Marial won't be running from death or looking for a place to hide. How fitting it will be that his event, the marathon, is the longest of all running events. Because a story like this begs to be told over and over, not in the flash of 100 meters.
The former runner at Iowa State University, Marial isn't expected to medal in London, but that truly doesn't matter. He's no slouch though, as his times actually project to the possibility of a top ten or twenty finish.
Having lost some twenty-eight family members and friends to the oppression in Sudan, Marial will run nearly one mile for each of them. His father, he hopes, will be able to head to a nearby city in Sudan to watch his son run.
But this time instead of running for his life, Marial will carry the hope and pride of his native Sudan's poor and suffering. Under the colors of the Olympic rings, the entire world will be watching.
A gold-medal worthy story -- what the Olympics are all about.
What are your top reasons for watching the Summer Olympics?
Justin Mikels is a staff writer for Operation Sports. Follow him on Twitter @long_snapper.