Yusra Mardini is a swimmer originally from Syria who competed for the Refugee Olympic Team at Rio 2016.
Yusra, who is the youngest-ever UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador, shared her tips for staying resilient with the global athlete community during our webinar on 18 August.
Watch the video and hear Yusra’s inspirational story.
In conversation with our regular host Jeanette Kwakye, Yusra talked through her incredible story – from surviving a perilous 25-day journey from Syria to Europe, to competing for the Refugee Olympic Team at Rio 2016 – and revealed how swimming has helped her withstand so many setbacks.
“I learned from a really young age that swimming is my escape from life,” said Yusra. “Once you enter the pool, you leave all your problems behind – and in Syria I had serious problems. Swimming became my place of creativity and getting everything out of my system.”
Yusra also revealed how it was her background in the sport that allowed her to help push the boat carrying her and around 20 other refugees to safety off the Greek island of Lesbos after its motor failed.
“[Swimming] literally saved my life,” she said. “If I didn’t know how to swim, I don’t know what I would have done in the water with the boat.”
YOU NEED TO REMEMBER WHY YOU’RE HERE, AND WHY THIS WILL PAY OFF EVENTUALLY.
Working to achieve our dreams
Yusra, who has been based in Berlin (Germany) since making that journey in 2015, is set to compete in her second Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2021 and took a number of questions from webinar guests about how to stay motivated.
“You need to remember why you’re here, and why this will pay off eventually,” she suggested. “Sometimes I just talk to someone and tell them I don’t feel good – and then they motivate me.”
She added of Tokyo 2020: “These Olympic Games are going to be all about overcoming hardship and a massive problem in all of our lives. I think when we get to the Olympics, it means we all stood with each other, and athletes will show the world that we’re working through everything to achieve our dreams.”