Eighteen-year-old swimmer Yusra Mardini was on track to become part of Syria’s Olympic team until civil war tore her country apart. A year ago, she and her sister Sarah left Syria through Lebanon and Turkey. They boarded a refugee boat going from Turkey to Greece, but the overloaded boat was not up to the task.
Thirty minutes after setting off from Turkey, the motor on their boat, which was meant for six people but carrying 20, began to fail. Most of those on board it could not swim. With no other alternative, Mardini, Sarah and two strong swimmers jumped into the sea and swam for three hours in open water to stop their dinghy from capsizing, eventually reaching Lesbos.
“We were the only four who knew how to swim,” she said of the experience. “I had one hand with the rope attached to the boat as I moved my two legs and one arm. It was three and half hours in cold water. Your body is almost like … done. I don’t know if I can describe that.”
But while she now hates open water, the memory is not a nightmare for her. “I remember that without swimming I would never be alive maybe because of the story of this boat. It’s a positive memory for me."
Mardini made it to Germany, where she resumed her training, and is one of the ten members of the Refugee Olympic Team, supported directly by the IOC.
Saturday, Mardini won her first heat in the 100 meter butterfly, but did not make the finals. Still, she’s young, and hopes to compete in the 2020 Games. She also hopes to inspire others to think of refugees as normal people. -via Uproxx