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“I feel like I’ve lived two lives”


Double IOC Refugee Olympic team member Yusra Mardini she has life experience well beyond her 24 years.

After fleeing war-torn Syria in 2015, the national swimmer had a near-death experience during a treacherous boat trip to Europe.

After settling in Berlin, Germany, she had to learn a new language and build a new life.

Swimming became a godsend for Mardini, and a year later the former Syrian international was named to the first-ever Olympic refugee team at the Rio 2016 Olympics.

“It’s crazy because ‘I feel like I’ve lived two lives. And more has happened in the last five years since I left Syria than in the first 17 combined,” Yusra Mardini told Olympics.com.

“Sometimes I feel like I’m 50 because of everything that’s happened. But I learned everything; going from this little girl who just focused on swimming and winning gold medals to escaping war and representing millions of people around the world was so eye-opening and changed the way I think.”

Tomorrow, November 23, the movie “Swimmers” will hit the cinema screens, which tells her amazing story.

Why Yusra Mardini’s story should inspire the world

Yusra Mardini: “I also learned a lot about caring for other people”

Even after being selected for the IOC Olympic refugee team for Rio 2016, Mardini continued to focus on winning a medal.

But that all changed as soon as she stepped out into the crowded Maracana Stadium for the opening ceremony.

“The moment I entered the stadium with this team, I saw everyone standing up. I saw the president get up. I had goosebumps. And I will never forget that moment,” Mardini continued to Olympics.com

“That’s when I realized it wasn’t about me, but about millions of people around the world. We received so many messages from refugees and realized that it was our duty to help them all. Giving people hope is much more important to me now than winning a gold medal.

“Honestly, when I was younger, I only cared about myself. While I am still very competitive in the pool, I have also learned a lot about caring for other people. I’ve learned a lot about diversity, I’ve learned a lot about how we really are stronger together.”

Who is Yusra Mardini and what is her story?

Why the IOC Refugee Olympic Team matters

Mardini’s story went viral, and in 2017, the 19-year-old became the youngest-ever Goodwill Ambassador of UNHCR, the United Nations Refugee Agency.

She has traveled to Japan, Jordan and Sicily to speak with refugees and has used her platform to bring their stories to the fore.

Despite taking on this extra responsibility, Mardini continued her training and was selected as the IOC refugee flag bearer for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in 2021.

Instead of going to the party in pursuit of gold, this time she focused on being a beacon of hope for displaced people around the world.

“The IOC Refugee Olympic Team gives every talented athlete from around the world the chance to participate in the Olympic Games,” she said.

__”_We have every skin color you can imagine. You have every nationality, you have every gender. You have people who have come a long way, but they are still there.

“When I think of the Olympics, I think of a quiet place where only sports revolve around. When you’re standing on the starting block, whether it’s swimming, volleyball, basketball, whatever, you don’t care where the other person is from. It’s just the red team and the blue team.

“I’ve seen people from two countries that have so many conflicts walking together like friends and that’s what sport is all about. That’s what the Olympics is about

“The Olympic Games and the Refugee Team changed my life and will stay with me and so many athletes forever.”

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