Yusra Mardini, an 18-year old refugee from Syria, is training in hopes of becoming a part of the first-ever Refugee Olympics Athletics team.

Mardinia loves to swim, but the war in Syria prevented her training. Many times trainings were canceled or held at swimming pools that were later struck by explosives.

Losing hope in a near end to the conflict, Mardini and her sister, Sarah, left their home in Damascus last August. The sisters commenced on a long, dangerous journey through multiple borders including a swim in the Aegean Sea before reaching Germany.

In Germany, Mardini connected with a local swimming club and for the past 5 months, she has been training to qualify for the Olympics.

Despite her difficult circumstances, Mardini wants to avoid the feeling of defeat and uses swimming as a way of moving forward.

“It’s tough. It was really hard, for everyone, and I don’t blame anyone if they cried. But sometimes you just have to move on,” she said.

Mardini treasures her experience as a refugee, but is dedicated and focused on growing as an athlete.

“In the water,” she says, “there is no difference if you are a refugee or a Syrian or German.”


Jowelle M. is a college student interested in sociology, political science, and Spanish. Aside from academics, Jowelle enjoys blogging, reading, music, and spending time with family. She is happiest when she is working with others to improve the community.