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Syria swimmer to compete for Refugee Olympic Team in Tokyo

July 8, 2021 at 6:39 pm

Syrian refugee Yusra Mardini competes in a swimming competition at the 2017 FINA World Championships in Budapest, on 23 July 2017 [MARTIN BUREAU/AFP/Getty Images]

Syrian refugee and Olympic swimmer Yusra Mardini is set to compete for the Refugee Olympic Team at the Tokyo Summer Olympics, with the multi-sport event to begin on July 23, Anadolu Agency reports.

“They don’t share a nation, or a language. But they choose to keep their dreams alive. Yusra Mardini is a part of the Tokyo 2020 IOC Refugee Olympic Team,” said the official Instagram account for the Olympics.

“Each of us has a different story. But there is something we all have in common: We chose to keep our dreams alive,” she said in a video.

“We carried them with us. Across oceans and deserts and cities. We brought them together. To form a team greater than ourselves. One that defies borders and limits. A team that belongs to everyone. Because the starting line doesn’t care who we are. Only that we’ll face it, together,” the 23-year-old added.

Mardini fled from war-torn Syria in 2015, four years after the civil war had begun.

Syria has been ravaged by a civil war since early 2011, when the Bashar al-Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protesters.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and more than 10 million displaced, according to UN estimates.

Mardini took refuge in Turkey but then faced a perilous sea crossing to Greece on a small boat.

READ: Syria refugees swim back to Turkey after Greece turns them away

During the journey on the Aegean Sea, the dinghy’s engine stopped working and the boat took on water. Mardini and her sister Sarah jumped into the water to push and drag the boat carrying 20 people to the Greek island of Lesbos.

They spent three hours in the water. Then they travelled through Europe to Germany, where they live.

The UN appointed Yusra as the Goodwill Ambassador for the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in 2017.

Mardini was previously named to compete for the Refugee Olympic Team at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, widely known as Rio 2016.

There will be 29 athletes, including Mardini, who will compete for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Refugee Olympic Team in Tokyo and represent 12 sporting branches including athletics, badminton, boxing, canoeing, cycling, judo, karate, taekwondo, shooting, swimming, weightlifting and wrestling.

They were named by the IOC ahead of the Summer Olympic Games in the Japanese capital.

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