More than 10,000 athletes will compete in the Summer Olympics in Tokyo. But few – if any – will have as extraordinary a story as Syrian swimmer Yusra mardini.
mardini, her sister Sara and another refugee had to swim for their lives after the boat broke down as they crossed the Mediterranean to Greece from their war-torn home country.
It is thought they swam for three hours.
Yusra and Sara mardini, also a competitive swimmer, are from Damascus, Syria’s war-battered capital.
Speaking to ITV’s Good Morning Britain in 2018, mardini recalled: “We realised that we were working so hard and waking up to a routine [war] that won’t change ’til I’m 60 years old.
“I’m working as hard as people in Europe but I know I will not reach [my goals]. Why? Because there is war.”
she recalled training in a pool building where there were holes in the roof.
To escape Syria, the two sisters decided to flee to Turkey. From there, they boarded a dinghy on the Turkish coast.
“The boats are those boats you go on vacation with for five people, 10 people. There were  on it.
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“Most of them didn’t know how to swim. When we were on the boat the motor stopped and the water was coming in.”
Battling to stay awake amid sheer exhaustion, they reached a Greek island in the middle of the night.
she continued to train after settling in Germany, earning her place on the first Refugee Olympic Team, which was created to raise awareness of the issue as hundreds of thousands of people were pouring into Europe from the Middle East and elsewhere escaping conflict and poverty.
The refugee team has now been expanded to 29 athletes in sports ranging from boxing to badminton. They will compete under the Olympic flag.
“It will send a powerful message of solidarity, resilience and hope to the world, International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach said.
mardini will be competing in the women’s 100m butterfly event.
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