Months after fleeing to Europe from war-torn Syria, Yusra Mardini is hoping to qualify for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Mardini, 18, is an asylum seeker who lives in a refugee reception center in Berlin, Germany. She's also a professional swimmer and was identified by the International Olympic Committee as one of 43 potential candidates for a refugee Olympic team.
When she arrived in Berlin with her sister Sarah, the young woman was introduced to a swimming club in Berlin, Wasserfreunde Spandau 04, where a coach agreed to take her on.
"I want to show everybody that it’s hard to arrive at your dreams but it’s not impossible," Mardini said at a press conference today together with her coach, Sven Spannekrebs, and representatives of the German Olympic Sports Confederation.
"Everyone can do it if I can do it; any athlete can do it," she added.
Mardini said she was hoping to qualify in the 200-meter freestyle. Developing her talent as a swimmer was challenging in Syria, Mardini told the U.N. Refugee Council. "... Sometimes we couldn’t train because of the war. Or sometimes you had training but there was a bomb in the swimming pool,” she said.
"Many athletes can take her as a role model because she's so focused on her goals and organizes her life around them," added Spannekrebs.
Also at the press conference, Michael Schirp, deputy head of media relations and public affairs at the German Olympic Sports Confederation, said there were many high-level elite athletes moving through refugee camps.
"I’m going to make them proud," Mardini said. "I want to represent all the refugees because I want to show everyone that, after the pain, after the storm, comes calm days. I want to inspire them to do something good in their lives."
Between five and 10 refugees will be selected for the Olympic team based on specific sporting standards and whether they have official refugee status.
"This will be a symbol of hope for all the refugees in our world, and will make the world better aware of the magnitude of this crisis," said President of the International Olympic Committee Thomas Bach told the U.N. General Assembly last October.
The final team is expected to be announced in June.