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Syrian refugee who’s competing in Rio saved 20 lives by pushing a sinking boat to dry land

Yusra Mardini has an amazing story to tell. In the meantime, she’s is in Rio representing a team of 10 refugee Olympic athletes.

According to the Independent, she and her sister are responsible for helping to save the lives of 20 people, including their own, after jumping off their sinking raft into the Aegean Sea and pushing their boat to dry land.

Mardini, who now lives in Berlin, is competing in the women’s 100-metre butterfly and freestyle heats this Saturday and Wednesday. Her coming appearance is one of the most looked forward to of the Games.

From the Independent:

Mardini was a talented swimmer in war-torn Damascus and professionally backed by the Syrian Olympic Committee. As unrest in the besieged country escalated, she would often find herself training in pools where roofs had been blown open by bombings. “Sometimes we couldn’t train because of the war,” she said. “And sometimes you would be swimming in pools where the roofs were [blown open] in three or four places.”

Damascus became increasingly unstable and Mardini and her sister Sarah eventually left Syria, travelling through Lebanon and Turkey before trying to reach Greece.

“We were the only four who knew how to swim,” she said of the experience. “I had one hand with the rope attached to the boat as I moved my two legs and one arm. It was three and half-hours in cold water. Your body is almost like … done. I don’t know if I can describe that.”

I remember that without swimming I would never be alive maybe because of the story of this boat. It’s a positive memory for me.”

“I want everyone to think refugees are normal people who had their homelands and lost them not because they wanted to run away and be refugees, but because they have dreams in their lives and they had to go,” she said at a press conference announcing her place on the team.

“Everything is about trying to get a new and better life and by entering the stadium we are encouraging everyone to pursue their dreams.”

Watch her story in the video below:

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