Yusra Mardini

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Yusra Mardini
Yusra Mardini portrait.png
Yusra Mardini
Personal information
Birth nameYusra Mardini
Born (1998-03-05) 5 March 1998 (age 21)
Darayya, Damascus, Syria
Height5 ft 5 in (165 cm)
SportFreestyle swimming, Butterfly stroke

Yusra Mardini (Arabic: يسرى مارديني‎) is a Syrian swimmer currently living in Berlin, Germany. She was a member of the Refugee Olympic Athletes Team (ROT), that competed under the Olympic flag at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.[1] On 27 April 2017, Mardini was appointed a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador.[2]

Early life[edit]

Growing up in Darayya, a suburb of Damascus,[3] Mardini trained in swimming with the support of the Syrian Olympic Committee.[4] In 2012, she represented Syria in the 2012 FINA World Swimming Championships (25 m) 200 metre individual medley, 200 metre freestyle and 400 metre freestyle events.[5]

Mardini's house was destroyed in the Syrian Civil War.[6] Mardini and her sister Sara decided to flee Syria in August 2015.[7] They reached Lebanon, and then Turkey, where they arranged to be smuggled into Greece by boat with 18 other migrants,[7] though the boat was meant to be used by no more than 6 or 7 people.[4] After the motor stopped working and the dinghy began to take on water in the Aegean Sea, Yusra, her sister, Sara, and two other people who were able to swim[4] got into the water and treaded water for over 3 hours until the engine started working again, and the group reached Lesbos.[7] [8] They then traveled through Europe to Germany, where they settled in Berlin in September 2015.[4] Her parents also fled Syria and live in Germany.[9]

Swimming career[edit]

On arrival in Germany, Mardini continued her training with her coach Sven Spannenkrebs from Wasserfreunde Spandau 04 in Berlin, in hopes of qualifying for the Olympics.[4][7] She attempted to qualify in the 200 metres freestyle swimming event.[6] In June 2016, Mardini was one of ten athletes selected for the ROT.[10] Mardini competed in the 100 metres freestyle and the 100 metres butterfly at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio.[11] At the Rio Olympics, Mardini won a 100m butterfly heat against four other swimmers, with a time of 1:09.21 and a rank of 41st among 45 entrants.[12][13][14]

IOC President Thomas Bach said of the refugee athletes, "We help them to make their dream of sporting excellence come true, even when they have to flee war and violence."[15]

Popular culture[edit]

Yusra Mardini's story is told in the short story collection Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls, by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo. The story is illustrated by JM Cooper,[16] and when the story was released as a podcast episode it was narrated by American journalist and long-distance swimmer Diana Nyad.[17] On 3rd of May 2018, the autobiography "Butterfly: From Refugee to Olympian - My Story of Rescue, Hope, and Triumph" by Yusra Mardini was published.[18] It is planned that director Stephen Daldry will make a movie about her life.[19]


  1. ^ Fahey, Ciaran (18 March 2016). "Swimmer Yusra Mardini competed at Rio Games for refugee squad in hopes of inspiring other Syrians. On 6 August 2016, Yusra won her heat Summer Olympics in the 100 meter butterfly". The Toronto Star. ISSN 0319-0781. Retrieved 19 March 2016.
  2. ^ Refugees, United Nations High Commissioner for. "Yusra Mardini appointed UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador". UNHCR. Retrieved 27 April 2017.
  3. ^ "From Syrian Refugee to Olympic Swimmer: Yusra Mardini Goes for the Gold". Vogue. 24 March 2017.
  4. ^ a b c d e Philip Oltermann. "From Syria to Rio: refugee Yusra Mardini targets Olympic swimming spot". the Guardian. Retrieved 25 March 2016.
  5. ^ "The inspirational Olympic journey of refugee swimmer Yusra Mardini". Olympic.org. Olympic Games. Retrieved 25 March 2016.
  6. ^ a b "Olympics hopeful Syrian refugee swims for three hours pushing boat of migrants". Stuff. 21 March 2016. Retrieved 25 March 2016.
  7. ^ a b c d "After Surviving Aegean Sea, Syrian Swimmer Hopes For Spot In Olympics". NPR.org. 20 March 2016. Retrieved 25 March 2016.
  8. ^ "Butterfly: From Refugee to Olympian - My Story of Rescue, Hope, and Triumph".
  9. ^ "Refugee swimmer Yusra Mardini gets a chance to go the Olympic Games". SwimSwam. Retrieved 25 March 2016.
  10. ^ "IOC selects 10 to form refugee team for Rio".
  11. ^ Wilder, Charly She Swam to Escape Syria. Now She'll Swim in Rio. New York Times. August 3, 2016
  12. ^ "Rio 2016". Archived from the original on 7 August 2016. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  13. ^ Refugee swimmer Yusra Mardini just won her heat at the Olympics, quartz.com, retrieved 7 August (CET)
  14. ^ Yusra Mardini delights with butterfly heat win for Refugee Olympic Team, The Guardian, retrieved 6 August 2016
  15. ^ "Team of Refugee Olympic Athletes (ROA) created by the IOC". IOC. Retrieved 3 March 2016.
  16. ^ "Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls - JM Cooper". 27 March 2018.
  17. ^ Girls, Good Night Stories for Rebel. "Yusra Mardini read by Diana Nyad – Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls – Podcast". Podtail. Retrieved 27 March 2018.
  18. ^ "Butterfly: From Refugee to Olympian - My Story of Rescue, Hope, and Triumph".
  19. ^ "Schwimmerin Yusra Mardini: Vom Flüchtling zum Weltstar". Spiegel (in German). 19 April 2018.

External links[edit]