Syrian Olympic swimmer becomes UNHCR ambassador

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Syrian refugee and Olympic athlete Yusra Mardini, who saved 19 refugees from drowning in 2015, was appointed as a Goodwill Ambassador of the UNHCR, the Refugee Agency announced Thursday.
“l am living in Berlin. l am doing a lot of speeches to tell my story and l want to encourage all the refugees to continue education and not to stop at one point in their life. l hope UNHCR will support me for that,” 19-year-old Mardini said at a news conference at the U.N. headquarters in Geneva.
“Refugees are just normal people living through traumatic and devastating circumstances, who are capable of extraordinary things if only given a chance,” Mardini added.
The young swimmer, who competed in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, said she would also like to compete in the Refugee Olympic Team in the next Olympics in Tokyo if there would be a refugee team in the organization.
She also said that she would go back to Syria “when the war ends”.
“Since her selection for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, Mardini has worked closely with UNHCR, highlighting with her own inspiring performances the first-ever Refugee Olympic Team and the wider global refugee crisis,” UNHCR said in a statement on Thursday.
The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi called Mardini a “deeply inspiring young woman”.
“Through her powerful personal story, Yusra represents the hopes, the fears and the incredible potential of the more than ten million young refugees around the globe,” he said.
In August 2015, Mardini and her sister, Sarah, traveled from war-torn Syria to Lebanon, and then to the western Turkish city of Izmir on the Aegean Sea, from where they jumped into a dinghy bound for the Greek island of Lesbos with 18 other refugees.
After the engine of the boat stopped, Mardini and her sister — also a swimmer — swam for some three hours alongside the boat, pushing and pulling it until they reached the shore.
Mardini and her sister later traveled to Germany and settled in Berlin. She was one of the 10 members of the first Refugee Olympic Athletes Team that competed at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

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