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The First Olympic Refugee Team: Champions Against All Odds

Caroline Slusarczyk

For 10 athletes at the 2016 Olympic Games opening ceremony in Rio on Friday, just walking out in front of a global audience of over a billion people, was a massive achievement.


For starters, they are not just world class Olympic athletes...They are refugees of war representing the first ever Olympian refugee team!  

That means these refugees, quite literally, survived explosives, swam across oceans and walked barefoot through entire countries… and then went through extensive, vigorous training to eventually qualify for the Olympics! 

Remarkable to say the least... Take 18 year old swimmer Yusra Mardini

Theresa Gonzalez/ Getty Images

Theresa Gonzalez/ Getty Images

In fleeing war-torn Syria, Mardini swam for more than three hours in the sea to get to Greece after the small boat she was on capsized.  In doing so, she and her sister also helped more than a dozen non-swimmers on the boat also survive the treacherous journey.

Mardini, who now lives in Berlin, topped her heat in the 100m butterfly yesterday on day three. While her time was not quite quick enough to qualify for the semi-finals, she took to Twitter to acknowledge her achievement.

“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,” she says, “But because they have dreams in their lives and they had to go. A lot of people in Syria forgot their dreams and I hope everyone will follow their dreams to achieve something good in the future.”

You can see Yusra in action again in the 100m freestyle heats later in the week. 

The Wanna believes Yusra is already a winner!