You hear a lot of statements like this around the Olympic Games, and most major championships. Athletes devote their lives to their sport and couldn’t imagine not living and breathing it everyday… I am a dressage rider, and definitely feel the same way, i would feel at quite a loss without a horse in my life! And for 18 year old Yusra Mardini, this statement is no emotional exaggeration.
In August 2015, Yusra was caught in the heart of the Syrian civil war and as unrest in the besieged country escalated, Yusra would often find herself training in pools where roofs had been blown open by bombings. “Sometimes we couldn’t train because of the war,” she said. “And sometimes you would be swimming in pools where the roofs were blown open in three or four places.” So Yusra was forced to travel with her sister from Damascus through Lebanon and Turkey before eventually attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea into Greece.
The sisters paid some people traffickers to take them across the Sea in a dinghy made for 6 people. The traffickers filled it with 20. 😱😱
Just half an hour into their journey, the dinghy’s engine overheated and broke down. The small boat almost capsized and the group were stranded.
The people on the dinghy started to panic, children were screaming and everyone began throwing their possessions overboard to try and lighten the load.
Yusra Mardini looked at the panic around her and decided that she would have to do something… Most of those on board could not swim. With no other alternative, Mardini, Sarah and two strong swimmers jumped into the sea and swam for three hours in open water to stop their dinghy from capsizing.
The 18 year old girl wrapped a rope around her arm and started pulling the dinghy and it’s passengers towards the hazed silhouette of the far away shore.
Yusra collapsed on the beach, and while she now hates open water, the memory is not a nightmare for her. “I remember that without swimming I would never be alive maybe because of the story of this boat. It’s a positive memory for me.” She said. Yusra soon composed herself and then began the 1,000 mile trek to Germany.
Starting again in Berlin
Mardini has now settled in Berlin, where she was put in touch with the Wasserfreunde Spandau 04 swimming club and taken on as a member. Quickly realising her potential, Coach Sven Spannekrebs began considering Mardini for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. But her road to the Games turned out to be a much quicker path. She represented a small team of Refugee Olympic Athletes under the Olympic flag, at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in the Women’s 100m freestyle and butterfly.
A few days after the opening ceremony, Yusra raced to one minute, 9.21 seconds in the 100-meter butterfly. Her entry time, listed at 1:08.51, was about a second shorter. She didn’t swim fast enough to advance to the semifinal, but she won her preliminary heat, and the Refugee Olympic Team made history.
Not sure about you guys, but i know all of us here at Great Elm Bookkeepers have been left truly in awe of the young syrian girls and their hunger not just for survival, but for Olympic Gold!