The Olympics are always home to heartwarming stories of courage, strength, and perseverance. Some Olympic athletes usually have to overcome immense hurdles to even make it to the Games, never mind to have success at them. There are always competitors who are favorites heading into each event, but it’s sometimes the underdogs who are able to pull off stunning upsets that really create the best moments. The inclusion of the Refugee Olympic Team (ROT for short) is one that has snagged headlines heading into the Games, and on Saturday, one athlete gave us what will be one of the best moments of Rio 2016.
Syrian refugee Yusra Mardini was a hopeful for the 2020 games in Tokyo until the ROT team came together. This let Mardini – who currently resides in Germany – secure a spot on the 2016 women’s swimming team. Her story is among the most incredible ones, too, as Mardini once hopped out of a stalled boat that was escaping from Syria and pushed it to safety along with her sister, helping to save the lives of 20 people aboard the ship on its way to Greece.
On Saturday, the 19-year-old won the first heat of the 100 meter butterfly at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Her time wasn’t fast enough to make it to the semifinals on Saturday night, but that is already an incredible achievement and a great story that counterbalances some of the negativity that has made headlines in Rio. As Mardini said, she wishes to be an inspiration for all.
“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.”
Here’s to hoping that Mardini makes it back to the Olympics in 2020, and between now and then, her story continues to inspire people.