Swimming is the reason Yusra Mardini is still alive. To her, qualifying for the Rio Olympics is so much more than a sporting achievement.
The 18-year-old had been swimming since she was three years old before the Syrian civil war broke out. Suddenly even her home wasn’t safe anymore, let alone her local swimming pool in Damascus—it had been ripped apart by bombs. For the daughter of a swimming coach, not being able to swim was torture. It was just one more reason for her and her sister, Sarah, to flee.
Myth busting facts about refugees. Post continues below.
The UN estimates 400,000 people have died in the war since 2011, and Mardini knew she had to go. But as for so many, the decision to leave was almost as dangerous as the choice to stay.
The swim of her life
The two sisters left on August 12th 2015, spending 25 days traveling through surrounding countries in the company of armed people smugglers.
They made it to Turkey and convinced one of the smugglers to take them across the Mediterranean. But along the way, the dinghy they were in broke down.
There were 15 people on board and many couldn't swim. She jumped into the water with her sister, and together they swam—and dragged the boat to shores of Greece.
Then, the pair continued the rest of their 1609km journey to Germany on foot.