For the first time in the history of the Olympic Games, a team comprised entirely of refugee athletes fleeing from war and persecution had a chance to compete in the Rio 2016 Summer Games.
18-year-old Yusra Mardini was one of ten refugees chosen for the team, with the support of the Syrian Olympic Committee. On Saturday, Yusra won her 100-meter butterfly heat. Although her time didn’t qualify her for the finals, her story has taken over social media as an inspiring tale of overcoming adversity.
IOC president Thomas Bach spoke about forming the team the refugee athletes, “We help them to make their dream of sporting excellence come true, even when they have to flee war and violence.”
Yusra was 17 years old when she and her sister, Sarah, fled Syria in August 2015. She reached Lebanon and joined a group of 18 other refugees headed for Greece in a small dinghy, not meant to hold more than 8 people. When the motor died and the dinghy began taking on water, Yusra, a trained athlete, and her sister jumped out of the boat into the icy waters of the Aegean Sea and pushed the boat for over three hours – ultimately reaching the Greek Island of Lesbos. Yusra eventually found sanctuary in Germany.
More than 12 million immigrants entered the US through Ellis Island during its 62-year operation from 1892 to 1954. Most of the immigrants were European; Jews, Greeks, Italians, Irish, Russians, et al, who all wanted the same thing current refugees seek: peace, prosperity, and asylum from war, economic depression, and religious, racial, and political intolerance.
A 2013 study found that refugees placed in countries that had historic rivalries with their countries of origin were more at risk of becoming radicalized than refugees settled elsewhere.
When Yusra was selected to be a member of the Refugee Olympic Athletes Team in March, she said, “I want to represent all the refugees because I want to show everyone that, after the pain, after the storm, comes calm days.”
Refugees are human beings, not unlike you or I. There has not been one single act of terrorism committed by a refugee resettled in the United States – 1.5 million from the Middle East since 2001.
Compassion. Not fear.
Check out this report on the heroic athlete below;
Featured image via screen capture from youtube.com