Yusra Mardini: Syrian Refugee Taking Olympics By Storm In Swimming Competition

Yusra Mardini is making waves in the Olympic pool at Rio. The 18-year-old Syrian refugee was not even sure that she would reach adulthood when she left Syria at only 14-years-old. Last June, Yusra and 24 others boarded a boat meant for only six and headed to Lesbos. The massive overload of people on the boat began to cause problems. It was decided that some of the passengers would have to abandon the boat and take their chances in the water. Mardini and her sister went into the water due to the fact that they both were able to swim. Incredibly, Yusra and her sister helped push the overloaded boat for three miles until they reached the shore. Mardini commented on the thought going through her head while she was between countries.

“I thought it would be a real shame if I drowned in the sea, because I am a swimmer.”

Yusra Mardini is competing with nine other athletes as part of the Olympic Refugee Team. All of the athletes on the Olympic Refugee Team were sent a letter from Pope Francis.

“I extend my greetings and wish you success at the Olympic Games in Rio — that your courage and strength find expression through the Olympic Games and serve as a cry for peace and solidarity. Your experience serves as testimony and benefits us all. I pray for you and ask that you, please, do the same for me.”

It may have been the inspiration from the Pope’s letter that gave Mardini the strength to do what she did next. Yusra took her position at the side of the Olympic pool, jumped in, and won her heat in the 100-meter butterfly event. Sadly, Mardini was not able to channel that energy in the next heat, where she did not have a fast enough time in the pool to move on to the next heat.

Yusra Mardini and the nine others that make up the Olympic Refugee Team are making Olympic history in Rio. Never in the history of the Olympic Games has there been a team made up of refugees. In March, the International Olympic Committee came up with the concept to put a refugee team together for Rio. The IOC set aside $2 million for a select number of athletes to continue their training and vie for Olympic gold.

Mardini is very honored to have been one of the 10 refugee athletes to be selected.

“It’s very cool. It is an incredible feeling to be here. I’m really lucky to be here to swim with champions. That feels so amazing. It was really cool, the way everyone welcomed us.”

Yusra Mardini’s journey from Syria to the Olympics in Rio is considered to be one of the most incredible stories at the 2016 Olympic Games. Training for the Olympics in Syria became impossible for Yusra when the building housing the pool she was training in was destroyed during the massive conflict affecting the nation.

Mardini arrived in Germany last August and began showing her swimming talent in the same pool that was built by Hitler for the Olympic Games in 1936. A swimming coach quickly noticed Yusra’s talent and began working with her. Initially, the thought was that they would be preparing for the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020. Yusra will more than likely be there, but she will not be there as an Olympic rookie.

What do you think about the journey that Yusra Mardini and the other refugees have made to get themselves to the Olympics in Rio?

[Image Via AP Photo/Michael Sohn]