Saturday 24 March 2018

Refugee who saved 20 lives crossing Mediterranean wins 100m heat in Olympics

Yusra Mardini (SYR) of Refugee Olympic Athletes competes
Yusra Mardini (SYR) of Refugee Olympic Athletes competes

In a country as busy, vibrant, controversial and colourful as Brazil, the Rio Olympic Games were never going to get off to a quiet start – and they didn’t disappoint on that count on Saturday.

Day one threw up heart-warming moments, heart-stopping moments and heart-wrenching moments, too, from a home point of view as Chris Froome and Co failed to kick off Team GB’s medal count as they came up short in the men’s road race.

Perhaps the happiest tale of the day was that of swimmer Yusra Mardini who is representing the Refugee team under the Olympic flag and won her 100m butterfly heat to huge cheers in the pool at the Aquatics Stadium in Rio.

Her time wasn’t enough to win her a place in the semi-finals but it won the hearts of the spectators and is the latest chapter in an incredible story. Mardini, 18, and her sister fled war-torn Syria a year ago and travelled through Lebanon and Turkey before trying to reach Greece by a boat fit for six but carrying 20 people.

The motor failed and Mardini jumped in and swam for three and a half hours, pulling the boat and stopping it from capsizing before reaching land on the island of Lesbos where she could barely stand. She was given asylum in Berlin where her swimming talents were spotted and that led to Rio and Saturday’s sterling effort. She goes again on Wednesday in the freestyle heats.

(© Independent News Service)

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