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A few weeks ago we reported that Thomas Bach, President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), announced that a group of refugees will compete in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil this summer, under the unified Olympic flag. Now, some of the potential athletes are starting to emerge, including 18-year-old swimmer Yusra Mardini.
A year ago, Mardini was swimming for her life across the Aegean Sea, now she is hoping that she will be selected for the Team of Refugee Olympic Athletes (ROA), as she is shortlisted in the final 43 competitors. Taking part in a press conference in Berlin on Friday, March 18th, Mardini told her harrowing and courageous story, which included heartbreaking details of how she thought that she would die during the ocean crossing that she was forced to take as she fled the war in Syria.
She travelled with her family from the ravaged Syrian capital of Damascus for Beirut, from which they then went to Istanbul and Izmir, both of which are in Turkey. She was packed onto a dinghy, not designed for more than 7 or 8 people, along with about 20 others. Shortly into the trip, the boat looked as if it would capsize. Mardini was one of the only people who could swim, and so had to get out into the sea to try and stabilise it. “I thought it would be a real shame if I drowned in the sea, because I am a swimmer,” she told reporters, adding that she now has an extreme dislike for swimming in the sea.
An avid swimmer, even war couldn’t stop her from training. “Sometimes we couldn’t train because of the war. Or sometimes you had training but there was a bomb in the swimming pool,” Yusra Mardini says, before delivering some inspiring words of encouragement and wisdom.
“When you have a problem in your life it doesn’t mean you have to sit around and cry like babies or something. The problem was the reason I am here and why I am stronger and I want to reach my goals. So I want to inspire everyone that everyone can do what they believe in their hearts. I want everyone to stay strong for their goals in life because if you have your goals in front of your eyes you will do everything you can and I think even if I fail I will try again, maybe I will be sad but I will not show it, but I will try again and again until I get it.”
All of us at MyGoodPlanet wish Yusra Mardini and all the other competitors on the ROA the very best of luck during the qualifying procedures.