Yusra Mardini’s 25-Mile Trek
If the Olympic Games is about the spirit of world competition, then nothing epitomizes it more in my mind then this year’s Refugee Olympic Team, which marched under the Olympics flag in the Opening Ceremonies and represent the millions of displaced persons and refugees around the world. One of the breakout stories from this amazing team of that of swimmer Yusra Mardini, a Syrian refugee who at the age of 18 struggled on a dinghy overloaded with refugees to reach the Turkish coast in frigid waters last summer:
A competitive swimmer for most of her childhood in Syria, Mardini thought how cruel it would be to perish in the water. Her country’s civil war had left her family homeless, and she and her sister were among 20 people in the boat — and millions overall — trying to reach Europe. Their gateway, the Greek island of Lesbos, was invisible in the dark. When the boat’s motor stopped, the sisters, realizing that they were among only three or four passengers who knew how to swim, jumped in.
There was no time to be afraid. “I will die anyway,” Mardini remembers telling herself. “I had to try.”
It took three hours to push the boat to shore. Mardini and her sister, along with a family friend, continued from Greece to Macedonia, then through Serbia, Hungary, Austria and finally into Germany — a 25-day trek that ended in September 2015 in a Berlin refugee camp where they reunited with their father and found a local swimming club to take them in.
In this year’s games, Mardini surprised everyone by winning her first heat of 100m butterfly. She will also be competing in the 100m freestyle. And winning everyone over with her infectious smile.
Next: Victory for Kosovo