Monday Morning Motivation: Yusra Mardini

Yusra Mardini swimming

This week’s motivation is provided by the inspirational swimmer Yusra Mardini. In 2016, Mardini represented Team Refugee at the Rio Olympics. She competed in the 100m freestyle and 100m butterfly swimming events. Less than a year beforehand she had fled war-torn Syria.

From refugee to Olympian – Yusra Mardini’s incredible journey

Yusra Mardini
Mardini competes in the Women’s 100m Butterfly heats on the first day of the Rio Games at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium on 6 August in Brazil. Photograph: Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

Her father, a professional swim coach, started Mardini swimming at the age of three. She trained seven days a week. This disciplined approach led to her competing in the 2012 FINA World Championships in Istanbul.

After war broke out, Mardini tried living a normal life, going to school and swimming. But when bombings interrupted her practice, and her family home was destroyed, she knew it was time to leave.

Along with her sister Sarah, Mardini left Damascus in August 2015. Her journey to Europe took 25 days.

During the sea crossing from Turkey to Lesbos Mardini’s dinghy got into trouble. It was a boat that was designed to hold 6 or 7 people, however, it was carrying 20 people. Mardini and three others jumped into the open water. They helped guide the boat to safety by pushing it for three hours.

“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.”

Mardini now lives and trains in Berlin. On 27th April 2017, she became a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador. She swims frequently and wants to participate in the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.

Learn more about Yusra Mardini:

Film to follow teenager who crossed the Mediterranean and competed at Rio

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