One year ago, Yusra Mardini saved a boat filled with Syrian refugees—herself among them—in the Mediterranean Sea by diving into the water and helping to push the stalled, overcrowded watercraft to shore. Now, the 18-year-old swimmer is competing in Rio on the Olympic Refugee Team.
Though Mardini placed first in her heat in the 100-meter butterfly on Saturday, her time wasn’t fast enough to advance her to the semifinals. That’s OK, though—she’ll have another shot on Wednesday, when she competes in the 100-meter women’s freestyle.
This is far from Mardini’s first major competition: In 2012 at the age of 14, she swam for her country’s short-course world championships, though war-torn Syria became an increasingly impossible place not only to train, but to live. Last year, she and her sister fled the country to what they hoped would be a better life outside of Syria’s violence-plagued borders.
Mardini now lives in Germany, where she trains at one of the oldest swim clubs in Berlin, built by the Nazis for the 1936 Olympics. Her odds of qualifying might be a long shot—she’d need to improve her fastest time by 11 seconds to advance in the freestyle competition—but she told the New York Times earlier this week that she’s striving for a “personal best.”
The point is, if Mardini can save a dozen lives and qualify for the Olympics and maintain a positive attitude, the least I can do is scrape myself away from this computer and go for a slow, plodding evening jog before the sun goes down. Happy Saturday, everyone!