Over the last year, our own Contributing Writer Tia Shah, has been writing an amazing column about trailblazing girls throughout history. This new Incredible Girls column is in that vein, only this column is about contemporary girls under the age of 25 who are doing awe-inspiring and significant things in the world. Every Friday in 2019, we are going to post a column detailing the life of an Incredible Girl and why you should know about her. Read on for a glimpse into the life of Olympian Yusra Mardini.
21-year-old Yusra Mardini is definitely worthy of inclusion on this Incredible Girls column. I’ve been following Yusra’s story and swimming career for years and continue to be in awe of her bravery, determination and drive to succeed.
Currently living in Berlin, Yusra was born in Syria where she trained with the Syrian Olympic Committee and represented Syria in the 2012 FINA World Swimming Championships. In 2015, Yusra and her sister, Sarah, decided to flee Syria via Lebanon and Turkey, where they then made their way to Greece. After their boat began to take on water during their journey to Greece, Yusra and her sister, and other refugees got into the water and treaded water for three hours until the boat engine started working again and they reached the island of Lesbos.
From Greece, the sisters then settled in Germany where they were joined by their parents. When Yusra arrived in Germany, she wanted to continue her training in hopes of qualifying for the 2016 Olympics. She qualified for the Olympics in Rio and was a member of the first ever Refugees Olympics Athletes Team, competing in the 100 meter freestyle and 100 meter butterfly races. She helped to represent 65 million displaced people worldwide through her Olympic experience at Rio.
In April 2017, Yusra was appointed a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador (the youngest ever!) and is training to compete at the next Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020. She wrote a memoir, Butterfly, that is being made into a feature film directed by Stephen Daldry.