Yusra Mardini: Olympic refugee who swam for three hours to save 20 lives ‘overwhelmed’ by support

The teenage swimmer used her talent to stop a boat carrying 20 from sinking. Now Mardini is competing at the Olympics and has captured the attention of the world 

Heather Saul
Wednesday 10 August 2016 09:45 BST

Yusra Mardini has said she is “overwhelmed” by the messages of support while she competes on the refugee Olympic team after her story of swimming in open water to save the lives of 20 refugees caught attention globally.

Mardini was a promising swimmer who represented Syria at the 2012 FINA World Swimming Championships until she was forced to flee her home in war-torn Damascus. After surviving the perilous journey across the Mediterranean Sea to Europe and settling in Berlin, the 18-year-old is now fielding interview and media requests from around the world.

The interest in her remarkable story continues to grow and Mardini has said she and her team will not be deciding on film, book and documentary offers until September 2016.

Yusra Mardini: Olympic Syrian refugee who swam for three hours in sea

In their desperation to escape conflict in Syria, Mardini and her sister climbed on board a dinghy built to carry six but carrying 20 after reaching Turkey. Their motor failed 30 minutes into their journey and, being one of only four people on board who could swim, Mardini, her sister and two others jumped into the water. They swam for three hours, pushing and pulling the boat until it reached the shore, saving the lives of everyone on board.

Her decision to risk her life has captured worldwide attention and Mardini has enjoyed an unprecedented level of support since qualifying.

She will compete in the women’s freestyle heat later today after winning her butterfly heat on Monday but failing to qualify for the final.

Responding to the outpouring of support on Tuesday, she wrote on Facebook: “I am overwhelmed by the mass of messages with your best regards and wishes!"

Mardini’s focus will soon be switched to training for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. “I want to train a lot so that I arrive there with a good chance,” she said after winning her first heat.

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