Ten months after fleeing the Syrian capital of Damascus, Syrian refugee swimmer Yusra Mardini has been selected together with nine fellow refugees to be part of the Refugee Olympic Team (ROT) at the Olympic Games Rio 2016. The 18 year-old will now represent the ROT – which will join the other teams of the 206 National Olympic Committees (NOCs) competing in Rio.
Mardini won her preliminary heat in the 100-meter butterfly Saturday, August 6, however, her score wasn’t enough to advance her to the semifinals. Her time of 1:9.21 put her in 41st place overall in the preliminary round, and only the top 16 swimmers moved on to the semifinals.
The young Syrian swimmer will also compete in a second individual event on Wednesday, August 10 when she swims the women’s 100-meter freestyle.
Mardini, who represented Syria at the short-course World Championships in Turkey in 2012, fled the conflict in her home country in August 2015 along with her sister Sarah. Mardini’s home was destroyed in the Syrian Civil War. The sisters and 18 other refugees aimed to enter Greece by boat, but the boat was meant to hold only six to seven people. According the The Independent U.K. “she and her sister are responsible for helping to save the lives of 20 people, including their own, after jumping off their sinking dinghy into the Aegean Sea and pushing their boat to land”. Both sisters pushed the boat over three hours before it reached the Greek island of Lesvos.
The sisters now reside in Berlin, Germany where Mardini revealed the emotions she might feel prior to the opening ceremony at the Maracanã Stadium held Friday, August 5.
“I think I will think about my family and my coach, my friends and everyone who’s helped me and I will think how proud I am that I did it and I will try and go back.”