Refugee Swimmer Yusra Mardini Wins First Heat at Rio

Ross Houston
August 7, 2016

I hope by Tokyo (Olympics) in 2020 there are no refugee athletes and I can compete (for Syria).

Mardini, 18, will compete in the 100m butterfly on August 6, and the 100m freestyle on August 10.

Five of the athletes originally are from South Sudan, two are from Syria, two are from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and one is from Ethiopia. "It's not an easy team", said Tegla Loroupe, the ROT's chef de mission.

It's easy to forget, but the Olympics are meant to showcase the best of the human spirit.

There was no need to explain the two-year break in her career, or indeed what kind of water might have been on her mind.

With the eyes of at least three billion people around the world on them tomorrow night, "you can show your strength, your capacity to run higher, to run faster, and become stronger", he said.

Mardini's compatriot, Rami Anis, will be the next to represent the team at Rio on Tuesday in the pool. "But I'm nearly dead in my country".

"Of course I don't want that to happen, but that's how you have to think so you can feel (empathy for) people".

"It was really cool and everything was fantastic and everyone welcomed us", she said of the opening ceremony, speaking as reporters crowded around.

President: "This is the beginning of a journey, because after the Olympic Games have closed, we will of course continue to support the Olympic Refugee athletes and we will help them in sport and in life". She is now living and training in Germany, but says she still misses Damascus and hopes one day to return.

Ten refugees were chosen from the more than 59.5 million people displaced from their homes around the world to form the Refugee Olympic Athletes team.

It's very easy to get cynical about the Olympics these days, because given the rampant doping, overwhelming corruption and gross commercialization, who can even remember the point of this quadrennial exercise in the first place? "But the problem was that I had 20 persons with me".

"Dear refugee athletes. You are sending a message of hope to all the many millions of refugees around the globe. I am extremely happy and I am going to struggle to win medal", Misenga said. "We are not bad people".

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