Olympians are the cream of the athletic crop. All have undergone hardships and displayed resolve in achieving their goals. One Olympics Refugee athlete though, Yusra Mardini, may have conquered something more extraordinary than most to get to where she is now.
Before being an Olympics Refugee athlete, Yusra Mardini was part of the professional swimming team in war-torn Damascus. The team was professionally backed by the Syrian Olympic Committee according to Independent. In her tenure there, the young then 17 year-old found herself training in pools that had their roofs destroyed because of the war. She revealed that they were blown open in three or four places.
Syria became unstable and she and her sister decided to leave the country for Greece. Their daring escape would take them through Lebanon and Turkey. On this journey, Yusra Mardini had to dig deep down to make it out.
Yusra Mardini and her sister took a boat with 18 other people. The boat they took was only meant for six and the motor began to fail. Most of the other escapees did not know how to swim, which left Yusra, her sister Sarah, and two other people who were also strong swimmers to take charge. The jumped out to the cold open waters of the Aegean Sea to stop their sinking dinghy from capsizing. It took them three and a half hours in cold water to reach Lesbos, a Greek Island in the northeastern Aegean Sea.
She recounted that it was hard as a swimmer to think that she was going to end up dying in the water. She, being a strong-willed and brave woman, did not let this thought bother her and ended up saving her and 19 other people?s lives. She revealed that the ordeal is a positive memory for her.
Now, she is settled in Berlin and was groomed for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Her journey was cut short as she was selected to be a part of the Refugee Olympic Team, with each member competing as independent Olympic participants. They compete under the Olympic flag with the official team being called the Refugee Olympic Team with the country code of ROT.
Yusra Mardini competed in the first heat of the 100m butterfly event and ended up 10 seconds short of qualifying for the semi-finals. Her name might not make it yet to the greats who won medals, but her name and story are now contemporary legends–testaments of human will and skill amidst daunting conditions.
Stay tuned for more Rio Olympics 2016 updates.