The Olympics is truly not just a venue for sports and entertainment but also hosts impactful stories that empower the rest of the world.
Yusra Mardini has a story to tell.
Yusra, 23, a Syrian-born refugee marked history when she and her group, International Olympic Committee (IOC) Refugee Olympic Team, marched the crowd in the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympics. Other delegates wore their national colors and waved their national flag, but for Yusra and her team, they paraded with their proud Olympic flag, representing the world during the Opening Ceremony.
“ …entering that stadium made me feel like being different is good, and that when people stood in the whole stadium, it made me almost cry and realized, you know what, I should be proud that I am a refugee. I should be proud that I am different, that I went through something, and still, I am standing here as for everyone else. (With) the smiles on our faces, you will never guess that we went through everything that we went through,” Mardini said in a live interview on The Olympic Games’ Instagram.
When the Civil war broke off in Syria last 2011, Yusra and her family were one of the people that were affected and had to flee the country.
She lived with her mom, but her dad had to leave home and go to Jordan to finance the family as a swimming coach. She remembered her life before as something scary, and as a young teenager, it seemed that her future couldn’t go elsewhere.
In August 2015, they escaped Syria and planned on moving to Germany. With her sister, they took a plane from Syria to Lebanon, Lebanon to Turkey, and boarded a boat owned by smugglers on a 45-minute ride to Greece.
On the way, the boat broke down and the boat that they went for was supposed to carry six to seven people; 20 of them boarded in a 10-kilometer ride. Right off the bat, Mardini, her sister, and other passengers jumped out of the boat and pushed the vehicle into the open water until they reached the shore for three hours.
“The whole way, you can just hear all of our prayers in one voice,” Mardini said.
Before reaching Berlin, they braved different circumstances, traveled to seven different countries, accepting all the help that they could, even from smugglers, and after 25 days, she and her sister welcomed their new lives in peace.
Before the different challenges they went through, Yusra expressed her love for swimming at an early age. The 100 EUR provided by the German government wasn’t enough for the young aspirant. She then applied and was accepted as a scholar in the IOC Refugee Athlete Scholarship.
With less than a year of training, she qualified for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, together with 9 other delegates, representing the refugees for the first time in the Games.
Yusra now stands as a woman of her own, Olympian, refugee, best-selling author, and a United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Goodwill Ambassador.
For others, sport is a recreational activity, for Yusra, it saved her.
“Sport was our way out,” said the 23-year-old. “It was kind of what gave us hope to build our new lives,” she added.
Source: https://olympics.com/en/news/yusra-mardini-inspiring-journey-tokyo, https://olympics.com/en/featured-news/swimming-refugee-yusra-mardini-story-inspire-world, https://olympics.com/en/news/yusra-mardini-exclusive-refugees-tokyo, https://olympics.com/en/news/introducing-yusra-mardini-refugee-olympic-team-swimmer-second-games-tokyo
Photo Credit: www.instagram.com/yusramardini/