Syrian refugee to participate in the Rio Olympics

Saturday 06th August 2016 06:14 EDT
Yusra Mardini

BERLIN: At the age of 18, Olympic swimmer Yusra Mardini, has prepared herself to compete in the pool. She has been practicing for the tournament since October, at one of the oldest swimming clubs in the city, Wasserfreunde Spandau. Mardini, however, is no ordinary teenager.

The swimmer and her sister fled from Syria, last August. What followed was a painful month-long journey through Lebanon, Turkey, Greece, Balkans, Central Europe, and Germany. The girls narrowly missed death, after their boat broke down in the Mediterranean Sea, and they jumped into the water and guided it to safety. The youngster was identifies as a candidate in March, by the International Olympic Committee as a candidate to compete on a new team of refugees. Mardini was officially named to the team in June, along with nine athletes from Syria, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Ethiopia.

The team will compete under the Olympic flag and anthem, and Mardini will compete in the 100-meter freestyle and the butterfly. "It's going to be really cool," she said. A talented swimmer back in Damascus, she was supported by the Syrian Olympic Committee. However, as the unrest grew, it became difficult for her to practice. "Sometimes we couldn't train because of the war, and sometimes we would be swimming in pools where the roofs were blown up in three or four places."

The sisters have now settled in Berlin where Mardini's potential was seen by Coach Sven Spannekrebs. While he had her booked for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, things turned up better for her. She trains for two to three hours every morning, attends school, and then trains again in the evening. Syria has reportedly been monitoring her swimming career, and asking for regular updates.

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