Swimming: Syrian refugee Mardini a winner in the water

Sat Aug 6, 2016 5:03pm EDT
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By Alan Baldwin

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - It was what Yusra Mardini left unsaid, rather than the conventional words of excitement, that made the bigger impression after the teenager's debut in the Olympic pool on Saturday.

"I was only thinking about water and the last competitions and where I am now," the Syrian, swimming for a refugee team, told reporters when asked what went through her mind ahead of her 100 meter butterfly heat.

The first of the refugees in action, she had looked down briefly before stepping on the platform.

"I left swimming for two years so now we are working to get back to my level," said the 18-year-old, who won her heat of five swimmers but finished 41st overall, when asked how her time compared to previous ones.

There was no need to explain the two-year break in her career, or indeed what kind of water might have been on her mind.

Rio is a life away from where she started.

To get to the point where she could discuss simple strokes and times involved fleeing Syria, making a treacherous sea crossing from Turkey to Greece and arriving in Berlin with her sister last year.

She swam part of that crossing over to the island of Lesbos, helping other refugees who were in the water and were unable to swim.   Continued...

Yusra Mardini of the Refugee Olympic Athletes competes in the women's 100m butterfly. REUTERS/Dominic Ebenbichler