As A Teenager Yusra Mardini Fled The War In Syria, Now She Is An Olympic Swimmer

By Mayukh Saha / Truth Theory

Yusra Mardini represented the Refugee Olympics Team at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 where she came in 3rd in the first heat of the women’s 100m butterfly. However, the athlete recently took the chance to reflect on her tough journey from Syria to Germany and how sport saved her life, just before her appearance on the international stage.

How Yusra Mardini Escaped From A War-Torn Country

Yusra Mardini managed to escape from a civil war in Syria in August 2015. She fled alongside her sister and endured a rough journey. They took a plane from Syria to Lebanon and traveled to Turkey after that. They later boarded a boat which was headed to Greece, from Turkey.

This boat ride was estimated to take 45 minutes as it was just supposed to cover 10kms. However, the boat was overweight and broke down after 20 people boarded it, instead of six or seven. Mardini, her sister, her friend’s father, and two others dived into the water and pushed the boat ashore. As a result, it took more than three hours.

Read: Powerful Images Show Life Through The Eyes Of A Syrian Refugee  

Yusra Mardini stated that she could hear everyone’s prayer in one voice as their boat broke down. Her final destination was Germany which she had to complete on foot and, sometimes, even with the help of smugglers. 

Yusra And How Sports Saved Her Life

In less than a year after that, Yusra Mardini competed in her first IOC Refugee Olympic Team at Rio in 2016.


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A post shared by Yusra Mardini (@yusramardini)

Yusra Mardini, 22, stated that sport was her only way out of that situation. It gave her new hope to build a new life out of nothing.

She added that she had built an incredible bond with the Refugee team members and they still talk to each other via Whatsapp. The memories she made with everyone felt so great and whenever they do something great, they talk to each other about it.

Yusra Mardini is now doing swimming camps for refugee children. She could not physically attend the first camp in December 2019 but she was moved by what she saw on the virtual screening of the camp.

This was the first charity project that she had undertaken and the first swimming school she had opened. She was extremely disappointed to not be present there physically but promised that it would not be the last time she organized such a camp. She promised to do it again, for sure.

Her Dreams For The Future

She kept a positive mindset while she waited for the Tokyo Olympics. Right before the event, she talked about being extremely excited about the approaching event and felt scared and nervous. She kept counting her days.

Yusra Mardini had trained and worked the whole time. The times were quite different from before as the pandemic was ongoing along with other disasters. But she, as an athlete, tried to do her best and remain as positive as she could be. She wants to work as hard as she can to achieve her dreams.

Read: Former Syrian Refugee Invents Charger Which Works With Aircraft Air Vents

Yusra Mardini has shared her story in a best-selling book titled “Butterfly”. She also has an upcoming biopic chronicling her achievements in the Rio Olympic Games.


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A post shared by Yusra Mardini (@yusramardini)

She wants to achieve more than this. She hopes that her story can remind people that refugees are not just “stories on the television” but are real people. Mardini repeatedly reminds people that refugees are normal people.  They did not come to a new country without dreams. Many of them become engineers, swimmers, and doctors.

She wants to take this opportunity to remind people that refugees are still in the camps in their respective nations and require the help of other countries and their citizens. She also wishes to participate in the Olympic Games again and make a trip to the event.

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