Inspiring teen Yusra Mardini, 18, had been one of Syria’s most hopeful swimmers before fleeing civil war in the country & now she gets a chance to compete in the Rio Olympics.
Last summer She and her sister fled their home Damascus and were on a dinghy trying to reach Greece when its engine failed and they used their strength to push it to shore for three hours. Thirty minutes into their journey, however, the motor stopped and the boat, carrying 20 people rather than the six or seven it was intended for, threatened to capsize.
Yusra, Sarah and another woman got into the water, pushing and pulling the dinghy until they reached the shore. They were the only ones on board who could swim. “I thought it would be a real shame if I drowned in the sea, because I am a swimmer,” she told a Berlin press conference on Friday. She has hated the open sea ever since.
In August, almost exactly a year after that treacherous crossing, Mardini is hoping her swimming ability could once again change her life, but in a much happier circumstance. Now living and training in Germany, the 18-year-old is one of 43 athletes across the world who, despite having fled their homelands and become refugees, are vie for the chance to compete in the Rio Olympics.
Her bravery won the hearts of Olympic officials and they awarded her a scholarship to train for the 2016 games and represent the International Olympic Committee Refugee Team which is made of athletes from other war torn countries. Team Refugee Olympic Athletes, or ROA, will compete under the Olympic flag and anthem.
Mardini said she wanted to meet Michael Phelps, who will compete again in Rio – and hope to repeat his success of London 2012 when the medals he won included the men’s 100m butterfly.
She said: ‘For the refugees in Brazil,and all the refugees around the world, we are going to represent you guys in a really good picture and I hope you are going to learn from our story that you have to move on because life will never stop with your problems. ‘I hope refugees all over the world will continue to try and achieve their dreams.’
Yusra and her family, who are Muslim, are now settled in Berlin, but she hopes to one day return to Syria and to compete for her country.