Every athlete at the 2016 Olympic Games has an interesting history, but Yusra Mardini’s is more than extraordinary! An 18 year old girl who is representing a team of 10 refugee athletes has a story to make everyone proud makes us think that how we whine about our little issues when there are others who face far more daunting problems. Let’s see what this girl did to follow her dream and her love for swimming.
Last summer, Mardini and her sister Sarah fled their home in Damascus for Beirut, Istanbul and finally managed to reach Turkey. Mardini’s house was destroyed in the Syrian Civil War and so they decided to flee Syria in August 2015. After reaching Turkey, with other 18 migrants they fled in a boat which was meant to carry only 6-7 people. Now, thirty minutes after setting off from turkey, the motor on their boat began to fail and most of the people on boat could not swim. So, Mardini and Sarah along with two more swimmers jumped into the Mediterranean Sea and swam for three hours in open water to stop their boat from Capsizing and the girls reached the shore saving lives of 20 people while risking theirs.
After 3 hours when they reached Greek island of Lesbos, they travelled through Macedonia, Serbia and Hungary. They had to hide from police in cornfields to reach Hungary and then eventually the sisters made it to Austria and finally Germany.
When the family settled in Berlin in September 2015, Mardini continued her training and she attempted to qualify in the 200 meter freestyle swimming event. Thomas Bach, IOC President, said of refugee athletes: “We help them to make their dream of sporting excellence come true, even when they have to flee war and violence.”
Mardini won a 100 m butterfly heat at the Rio Olympics, against only four swimmers and a rank of 41st among 45 entrants. When asked about her swimming and saving people Mardini said, “I thought it would be a real shame if I drowned in the sea, because I am a swimmer” though she has hated open water since then. Now living and training in Germany, the 18 year old is trying to compete in the Rio Olympics.
Team Refugee Olympic Athletes, or ROA, will compete under the Olympic flag and anthem. When the Mardini sisters arrived in Berlin in September, an Egyptian translator at their accommodation put them in touch with Wasserfreunde Spandau o4 which was one of the city’s oldest swimming clubs. Coach Sven Spannerkrebs immediately decided that Yusra was good enough to be part of the team and over next five months Mardini made better progress than expected and now a lot of people take her as a role model according to the coach.
Mardini now enjoys the benefits of Germany’s elite sports school system allowing her to train twice a day in an Olympic standard pool next to her school. Qualifying for Olympics, Mardini said, “I want to make all the refugees proud of me. It would show that even if we had a tough journey, we can achieve something. The only things I know now are that I want to continue swimming and continue supporting refuges”
According to The Guardian, Syria has been monitoring her swimming career and asking for regular updates. Mardini has hopes that peace will come in Syria.
“Maybe I will build my life here in Germany, and when I am an old lady I will go back to Syria and teach people about my experience” Mardini said.
Title image: Abcnews