Just six months ago,Yusra Mardini was swimming for her life and for the lives of more than a dozen other asylum seekers packed into a rubber dinghy bound for the Greek island of Lesbos.
This harrowing story begins In the summer of 2015, when Yusra and her sister Sarah, climbed into a tiny rubber dinghy off the coast of Turkey bound for the Greek island of Lesbos.
With more than 20 people packed onto the dinghy, and unaware that only three people could swim, they set sail.
It wasn’t long before the boat began taking on water, Yusra and her sister had no choice but to plunged into the sea.
The sisters then made the heroic decision to help save the remainder of the people trapped on-board.
Each holding on to one side of the rubber boat, the sisters swam with just an arm each, tugging the vessel along.
“It was awful in the beginning but we thought it would be a shame if we didn’t help the people who were onboard with us,” Yusra recalled.
Yusra has always dreamt of the Olympics and now a refugee in Germany, Yusra is among 43 athletes chosen by the International Olympics Committee to potentially form a multinational team of refugees in Rio.
“I want to represent all the refugees because I want to show everyone that, after the pain, after the storm, comes calm days,” she says. “I want to inspire them to do something good in their lives.”
In 2016 the International Olympic Committee (IOC) identified Yusra and 42 others for its team of Refugee Olympic Athletes. If she achieves a qualifying time, Yusra will be among between five and 10 finalists to be announced in June.
None of these athletes would normally be able to participate in the Olympics because their status as refugees has deprived them of a home country to represent. The IOC says the team will march just behind the Olympic flag, and ahead of their Brazilian hosts, at the opening ceremony on 5 August.
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Published 21/03/16 by Mark McCluskey