Yusra Mardini, a Syrian swimmer, is currently living in Hamburg, Germany. She was a member of the Refugee Olympic Athletes Team (ROT), which participated in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro under the Olympic flag. Mardini was named a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador on April 27, 2017. She also represented the Refugee Olympic Team in the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo (EOR). Mardini learned to swim as a child in Darayya, a Damascus suburb, with the support of the Syrian Olympic Committee. She competed in the 200-meter individual medley, 200-meter freestyle, and 400-meter freestyle events at the 2012 FINA World Swimming Championships (25 m).
In 2015, Mardini’s house was destroyed in the Syrian Civil War. Mardini and her sister Sara fled across Turkey after fleeing the country. In the hopes of obtaining refuge, they boarded an overloaded boat heading for Greece’s Aegean Islands. During the journey, the motor unexpectedly cut out and the dinghy began to sink. Mardini had no hesitation in jumping into the ocean after her boat’s motor failed when She heard frantic prayers and weeping from the people in the sinking boat above her as she surfaced. Sarah, her older sister, shouted at her to get back on the boat in between the waves. Mardini, on the other hand, was adamant. She was not going to leave Sarah in her ways. She began kicking up the dark water with one hand, inching the boat closer to the far beach.
This courageous act of bravery saved the lives of a boatload of Syrian migrants on their way to Turkey. Mardini worked tirelessly after arriving in Greece to achieve a lifetime ambition: to compete in the Olympics. She was successful, and she represented the Refugee Olympic Team in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
Mardini, a Syrian native and German resident, competed in the 100m butterfly at Tokyo 2020, five years after being a member of the inaugural IOC Refugee Olympic Team. It was a new chapter in her remarkable story. With a time of 1:06.78, Mardini came in third place in her heat. The best 16 swimmers from a field of 33 qualified for the semi-finals. Mardini, on the other hand, was unable to do so.
Mardini had already achieved two of her big dreams by competing in two Olympics, and she fulfilled a third at the Tokyo Olympics’ opening ceremony. During the march-in, she and Eritrean track and field athlete Tachlowini Gabriyesos carried the Olympic banner at the front of the refugee squad. “I can’t find words for what I felt carrying and representing the refugee Olympic flag,” Mardini later wrote to her over 140,000 followers on Instagram.
Her debut in the preliminary heat of the 100-meter butterfly would, however, most likely be her last as an Olympic competitor. Mardini, on the other hand, will keep dreaming and has set her eyes on a new goal: “I want to get a German passport, study, and then establish a swimming school.”