Swimming saved my life 

On 18 August, Refugee Olympic Team swimmer Yusra Mardini took part in the latest Athlete365 webinar, sharing her incredible story and tips for staying resilient with the global athlete community.  

  • Yusra Mardini is a swimmer originally from Syria who competed for the Refugee Olympic Team at Rio 2016.  
  • Yusra, who is the youngest-ever UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador, told athletes to train with what you have during our webinar on 18 August.  
  • Watch the video and join us for our next webinar on “Delivering your Olympian legacy”, which will take place on 1 September at 3 p.m. CET.  

In conversation with our regular host Jeanette Kwakye, Yusra talked through her incredible story – from surviving a perilous 25-day journey from Syria to Europe, to competing for the Refugee Olympic Team at Rio 2016 – and revealed how swimming has helped her withstand so many setbacks 

“I learned from a really young age that swimming is my escape from life,” said Yusra. “Once you enter the pool, you leave all your problems behind – and in Syria I had serious problems. Swimming became my place of creativity and getting everything out of my system. 

Yusra also revealed how it was her background in the sport that allowed her to help push the boat carrying her and around 20 other refugees to safety off the Greek island of Lesbos after its motor failed 

[Swimming] literally saved my life,” she said. “If I didn’t know how to swim, I don’t know what I would have done in the water with the boat. 

Working to achieve our dreams 

Yusra, who has been based in Berlin (Germany) since making that journey in 2015, is set to compete in her second Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2021, and took a number of questions from webinar guests about how to stay motivated to train in the face of the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.  

You need to remember why you’re here, and why this will pay off eventually,” she suggested. “Sometimes I just talk to someone and tell them I don’t feel good – and then they motivate me. We cannot control the situationso just try to enjoy and train with what you have.”  

She added of Tokyo 2020: “These Olympic Games are going to be all about overcoming hardship and a massive problem in all of our lives. I think when we get to the Olympics, it means we all stood with each other, and athletes will show the world that we’re working through everything to achieve our dreams.” 

Our next webinar is being held in partnership with the World Olympians Association and will focus on “Delivering your Olympian legacy”, both during your sporting career and after you’ve retiredIt will take place on Tuesday 1 September at 3 p.m. CET, and you can review here.