Prior to the war in Syria, she was one of the upcoming and rising talents in the field of swimming. Yusra was becoming a rising talent and a swimmer par excellence. She represented her country in many tournaments at the junior level. Everyone was of the opinion that Yusra will be one of the most promising talents from Middle-east. However, the Syrian War changed the entire geo-scape of her career. As the war intensified, Yusra and her sister left Damascus in early August 2015 and reached Berlin in September 2015. Since then, Yusra had been training at the Wasserfreunde Spandau 04 club, which is a partner of the Elite Schools of Sport in Berlin. In Berlin, she was training under the guidance of Sven Spannekrebs. When it seemed that all her dreams and aspirations were getting engulfed by the war, a ray of light glimmers for her.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided to look into the plight of these refugee athletes. Before the Rio Olympics 2016, the IOC decided to create a Refugee Olympic Team. This team will include all the star athletes from various failed states who wanted to excel in the field of sports but did not get an opportunity due to the geopolitical problems surrounding them. Yusra was naturally selected for this team. She already excelled at the junior level back in her country. Now, under Sven, she even trained in Germany which honed her skills even more. Yusra went on to reap the faith that was put in her. She won the individual 100m butterfly in Rio 2016. Recently, the 25-year-old bade her final goodbyes from the sports.
What were the significant achievements of Yusra?
From Darrya to Damascus to Lesbos to Greece to Hungary and finally Berlin. Yusra Mardini has shown immense grit and strength of character which gained her recognition throughout the world. Some of the salient milestones of her career are listed below:
1. Gold in Summer Olympics 2016
The Rio 2016 was the landmark stamp in her athletics career. She was selected to compete at Rio 2016 as part of the first-ever Refugee Olympic Team. At the Rio Olympics, Mardini won a 100 m butterfly heat against four other swimmers, with a time of 1:09.21 and a rank of 41st among 45 entrants. However, in the finals, the Syrian had the last laugh as she scripted history. Yusra went on to win the individual gold medal in the 100 m Butterfly. The standing ovation and love Mardini and her teammates received in Brazil changed her perspective on the Games and life.
2. Tokyo Olympics 2020
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. However, she was eliminated from the next rounds. In the subsequent rounds only the top 16 women qualified. Nevertheless, carrying the baton of the Olympics on her shoulder, Yusra inspired a whole generation of athletes.
3. Youngest UNHCR Ambassador
Yusra Mardini has been the youngest ambassador of the UN refugee agency UNHCR since April 2017. For the organization, she is the face of the global refugee crisis and an inspiration for refugees in the same situation.
With her sister Sarah, Yusra fled the civil war in Syria in 2015. From Turkey, they attempted to cross as part of a larger group, they tried to cross to Greece in a rubber dinghy. When the boat’s engine stopped, Yusra and her sister – also a competitive swimmer – and two other fugitives jumped into the water. They stabilized the boat and pulled it to shore while swimming for over three hours. In this way, the two sisters, along with the other swimmers, saved the lives of 20 people.
4. Biography “Swimmers”
At the end of 2022, Yusra was once again given a special honour – the streaming service Netflix released “The Swimmers,” a film based on her and her sister Sarah’s biography. “The Swimmers”, is a film based on the biography of her and her sister Sarah.
The two Syrian sisters are portrayed by two other sisters – the Lebanese actresses Manal and Nathali Issa. Both of them embody the Mardini sisters. Superstar Matthias Schweighofer also stars in “The Swimmers,” which is broadcast worldwide. Since then, it has been a little quieter around Yusra Mardini, who is currently studying in the USA. But her commitment to refugees continues to this day.
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