Yusra Mardini made history as part of the first-ever Refugee Olympic Team at Rio 2016.

The swimmer, originally from Syria, was appointed the youngest-ever UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador in 2017.

Yusra discussed her extraordinary journey as a refugee and her sporting career in “Swimming saved my life”.

There are few athletes with a story as inspirational as Yusra Mardini.

She began swimming at the age of three and had already made an appearance at the 2012 FINA World Championships at just 14 years old, participating in three events.

Fleeing Syria

Three years later, her life changed forever. Due to the ongoing civil war in Syria, Yusra and her sister Sarah decided to flee their home country in search of refuge. The country had become too dangerous for the young girls with bombs being dropped regularly on their home city of Damascus.

“When I was in Syria I thought, ‘Even if I swim my best times and study as hard as I can, will I ever be something?’” said Yusra in a recent webinar with Airbnb Olympian & Paralympian Experiences.

“One day, my sister and I were walking past a hotel and the hotel glass exploded on us. I didn’t get hurt, but you’re talking about a child. At this moment, we realised, ‘We’re alive, but are we really living?”

Towards the end of her 25-day journey from Syria to Europe, she and around 20 other refugees set sail on a dinghy to the Greek island of Lesvos. During the crossing, the motor on their boat failed only for Yusra, her sister, and two other refugees to jump into the open water and help to guide the boat to its final destination safely by swimming alongside it.

Following a dream

Yusra’s dream of competing in the Olympic Games came true just one year after she and her sister reached Europe and settled in Germany. As part of the first-ever IOC Refugee Olympic Team, she made history along with nine others who competed under the Olympic flag at Rio 2016.

Now, after being appointed the youngest-ever UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador in 2017, Yusra is advocating for more than 65 million refugees globally and representing their cause.

The webinar

Yusra shared her inspirational story with you and other athletes as the latest installment of the exclusive Athlete365 Stay Strong Webinar Series alongside your regular host Jeanette Kwakye.

During the webinar, Yusra revealed some of the hardships she has had to overcome in her life, as well as her secrets to remaining resilient and motivated in the face of adversity – useful lessons for all of us in these unprecedented times.

Missed the webinar? Watch the video and hear Yusra’s inspirational story.