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Yusra Mardini OLY (Arabic: يسرى مارديني; born 5 March 1998) is a Syrian former competition swimmer and refugee of the Syrian civil war. She was a member of the Refugee Olympic Athletes Team (ROT) that competed under the Olympic flag at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.[1] On 27 April 2017, Mardini was appointed a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador.[2] She also competed in the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo with the Refugee Olympic Team (EOR).[3]

Yusra Mardini
Yusra Mardini portrait.png
Mardini in 2016
Personal information
Birth nameYusra Mardini
Born (1998-03-05) 5 March 1998 (age 24)
Darayya, Damascus, Syria
OccupationSwimmer
Height1.68 m (5 ft 6 in)
Sport
CountrySyria
Refugee Olympic Team
SportFreestyle swimming, Butterfly stroke
Coached byRadwan Ali Obeidat, Adam Ali AlQatawneh and Sven Spannenkrebs

Early life

Growing up in Darayya, a suburb of Damascus,[4] Mardini trained in swimming with the support of the Syrian Olympic Committee.[5] In 2012, she represented Syria in the 2012 FINA World Swimming Championships (25 m) 200 metre individual medley, 200 metre freestyle and 400 metre freestyle events.[6]

Mardini's house was destroyed in the Syrian Civil War.[7] Mardini and her sister Sarah decided to flee Syria in August 2015. They reached Lebanon, and then Turkey, where they arranged to be smuggled into Greece by boat with 18 other migrants, though the boat was meant to be used by no more than 6 or 7 people. After the motor stopped working and the dinghy began to take on water in the Aegean Sea, Yusra, Sarah, and two other people who were able to swim jumped into the water and pushed and pulled the boat through the water for over 3 hours until the group reached the island of Lesbos.[8] They then traveled on foot through Europe to Germany, where they settled in Berlin in September 2015.[5] Her parents and younger sister, Shahed, also fled Syria and live in Germany.[9]

Swimming career

On arrival in Germany, Mardini continued her training with her coach Sven Spannenkrebs from Wasserfreunde Spandau 04 in Berlin, in hopes of qualifying for the Olympics.[5][8] She attempted to qualify in the 200 metres freestyle swimming event.[7] In June 2016, Mardini was one of ten athletes selected for the newly formed Refugee Olympic Team.[10] Mardini competed in the 100 metres freestyle and the 100 metres butterfly at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio.[11] At the Rio Olympics, Mardini won a 100m butterfly heat against four other swimmers, with a time of 1:09.21 and a rank of 41st among 45 entrants.[12][13][14]

International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach said of the refugee athletes, "We help them to make their dream of sporting excellence come true, even when they have to flee war and violence."[15]

As of October 2017, Mardini has been the latest addition to a team of international athletes to represent the Under Armour sports brand. Chris Bate, Under Armour managing director in Europe, has said: "We are inspired by her drive and accomplishments, both as a person and as an athlete."[16]

Mardini competed at the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo. She carried the flag of the IOC Refugee Olympic Team in the athletes’ parade in the opening ceremony. In the women's 100m butterfly, she swam a time of 1:06.78 in the heats, and was eliminated from the next rounds for which only the top 16 women qualified.[17][18]

After the Olympics, I realised that it’s not just my story anymore. I realised that my responsibility is to raise awareness and bring hope to millions of refugees around the world and speak for all of those who do not have a voice.

— Yusra Mardini, [19]

In popular culture

Mardini's story is told in the short story collection Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls, by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo. The story is illustrated by JM Cooper,[20] and when the story was released as a podcast episode it was narrated by American journalist and long-distance swimmer Diana Nyad.[21] Further, Irish musician Declan O'Rourke penned the song "Olympian" to recall Yusra's story.[22]

On 3 May 2018, her autobiography Butterfly: From Refugee to Olympian - My Story of Rescue, Hope, and Triumph was published.[23]

In November 2022, a biographical film, inspired by Mardini's life and titled The Swimmers, was theatrically released and distributed on Netflix later the same month. The film stars Manal Issa, Nathalie Issa, and Ahmed Malek.[24]

References

  1. ^ Fahey, Ciaran (18 March 2016). "Swimmer Yusra Mardini competed at Rio Games for refugee squad in hopes of inspiring other Syrians. On 6 August 2016, Yusra won her heat Summer Olympics in the 100-meter butterfly". The Toronto Star. ISSN 0319-0781. Retrieved 19 March 2016.
  2. ^ Refugees, United Nations High Commissioner for. "Yusra Mardini appointed UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador". UNHCR. Retrieved 27 April 2017.
  3. ^ Gibbs, Dan (23 July 2021). "Refugee Olympic Team: Who Are the Athletes at the Tokyo Olympics Opening Ceremony and What Countries Do They Come From?". Retrieved 23 July 2021.
  4. ^ "From Syrian Refugee to Olympic Swimmer: Yusra Mardini Goes for the Gold". Vogue. 24 March 2017. Retrieved 10 January 2023.
  5. ^ a b c Philip Oltermann (18 March 2016). "From Syria to Rio: refugee Yusra Mardini targets Olympic swimming spot". the Guardian. Retrieved 25 March 2016.
  6. ^ "The inspirational Olympic journey of refugee swimmer Yusra Mardini". Olympic.org. Olympic Games. Retrieved 25 March 2016.
  7. ^ a b "Olympics hopeful Syrian refugee swims for three hours pushing boat of migrants". Stuff. 21 March 2016. Retrieved 25 March 2016.
  8. ^ a b "After Surviving Aegean Sea, Syrian Swimmer Hopes For Spot In Olympics". NPR.org. 20 March 2016. Retrieved 25 March 2016.
  9. ^ "Refugee swimmer Yusra Mardini gets a chance to go the Olympic Games". SwimSwam. 20 March 2016. Retrieved 25 March 2016.
  10. ^ "IOC selects 10 to form refugee team for Rio". 3 June 2016.
  11. ^ Wilder, Charly She Swam to Escape Syria. Now She'll Swim in Rio. New York Times. August 3, 2016
  12. ^ "Rio 2016". Archived from the original on 7 August 2016.
  13. ^ Refugee swimmer Yusra Mardini just won her heat at the Olympics, quartz.com, retrieved 7 August (CET)
  14. ^ Yusra Mardini delights with butterfly heat win for Refugee Olympic Team, The Guardian, retrieved 6 August 2016
  15. ^ "Team of Refugee Olympic Athletes (ROA) created by the IOC". IOC. Retrieved 3 March 2016.
  16. ^ "Refugee Athlete Yusra Mardini Joins Under Armour's Bench - Ann-Christine Diaz". 20 October 2017. Retrieved 10 January 2023.
  17. ^ Wilder, Charly (1 August 2016). "She Swam to Escape Syria. Now She'll Swim in Rio". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 10 December 2022.
  18. ^ "In second consecutive IOC Refugee Olympic Team appearance, Yusra Mardini swims 100m butterfly". olympics.com. 5 October 2021. Retrieved 10 January 2023.
  19. ^ Hunstig, Maria (21 October 2022). "Breaking The Surface: An Audience With The Mardini Sisters & Their Onscreen Counterparts In "The Swimmers"". British Vogue. Retrieved 15 December 2022.
  20. ^ "Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls - JM Cooper". 27 March 2018.[dead link]
  21. ^ Girls, Good Night Stories for Rebel. "Yusra Mardini read by Diana Nyad – Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls – Podcast". Podtail. Retrieved 27 March 2018.
  22. ^ Murphy, Lauren. "Declan O'Rourke: Arrivals – Impressive record that spotlights the journeys taken". The Irish Times. Retrieved 24 September 2021.
  23. ^ Edemariam, Aida (9 May 2018). "Butterfly by Yusra Mardini review – the refugee swimmer whose story swept the world". the Guardian. Retrieved 10 December 2022.
  24. ^ Roxborough, Scott (20 April 2021). "Real-life Sisters Cast to Star in Netflix/Working Title Drama 'The Swimmers'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 8 November 2022.

External links

Olympic Games
Preceded by Flagbearer for   Refugee Olympic Team
(with Tachlowini Gabriyesos)
Tokyo 2020
Succeeded by
Incumbent

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