It was just a year ago that 18-year-old Syrian refugee Yursa Mardini was swimming for her life attempting to cross the Aegean Sea. Today, she is preparing to swim for the first-ever Refugee Olympics team in Rio, starting Friday, August 5, 2016.
In August of 2015, Mardini and her sister Sarah fled to Damascus before travelling to Lebanon and Turkey, in a boat filled with more than 3 times it’s recommended capacity. Only thirty minutes into the journey, the boat began to fill with water, at which point the Mardini sisters jumped into the water and pushed the boat to shore, saving the lives of all twenty of the passengers.
The two sisters then swam all the way to Berlin, Germany. Coach Sven Spannerkrebs spotted the girls and began training them for the German Olympic Swimming Team, slated to compete in 2020. However, the Olympic committee created its very first Refugee Olympic Team, in which Mardini is qualified to compete this year.
Mardini will be marching under the Olympic flag for the opening ceremony on August 5, 2016. Mardini says, “I want everyone to think of their dreams because a lot of people forget their dreams.”