Syrians on Refugee Olympic Team Arrive in Rio, 'We Want to Show World We Are Good People'

Last year Syrian refugee Yusra Mardini had to swim for her life when her boat broke down as she tried to reach Europe; this month the teenager will be swimming in the 2016 Rio Olympics.

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Syria's Rami Anys and Yusra Mardini arrive for a news conference
Syria's Rami Anys and Yusra Mardini, members of the Refugee Olympic team, arrive for a news conference.Credit: Screen grab

Last year Syrian refugee Yusra Mardini had to swim for her life when her boat broke down as she tried to reach Europe; this month the teenager will be swimming in the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Yusra, who is a member of the first ever Olympic refugee team, though she and her sister might drown after their overloaded dinghy started taking in water as they crossed the Mediterranean to Greece.

Along with another refugee they jumped in the sea and pulled the boat for three hours through the water, saving the lives of 19 others.

Mardini, who will compete in the 100-metre freestyle, is among 10 athletes in the refugee team which will march behind the Olympic flag at Friday's opening ceremony in Brazil.

At a news conference on Tuesday (August 2), while sitting next to the rest of the Refugee team, Mardini spoke about taking part in the opening ceremony.

"I'll be honoured. I'll be proud. I'll be happy. I'll have the pain in my stomach because this is a great feeling and of course I'm going to think of everyone who supported me, the International Olympic Committee, my two coaches and my family and my friends and absolutely my team and all the refugees around the world and all the teenagers and everyone we're representing," Mardini, told reporters.

"We're really happy together, all the team have a great friendship and all of us like We don't know the same language, we are not from the same countries but the Olympic flag united us, all of us, together and now we are representing 60 million around the world and we want to do our best to show everyone that we can do everything we can for being good athletes and good people, not only in sport and we are trying to give the best we can."

Mardini's fellow Syrian swimmer, Rami Anis said it was a dream to compete at an Olympic Games.

"This is a dream for any athlete," said Anis. "When I was a child I would dream about participating in the Olympics and our dream about participating in the Olympics under my country's flag. However, I am proud that I am participating today even though I am participating as a refugee Olympic athlete. Obviously, I think about my homeland, Syria, and I do hope that by Tokyo 2020 there will be no refugees, nothing is nearer and dearer to my heart than the homeland."

Judoka Popole Misenga, originally from the Democratic of Congo, now lives in Brazil said he was looking forward to competing at an Olympics in his adopted country.

"In Congo I lost my mother, I became a child without parents, without a family, separated from my brother. I managed to board a truck and then got to the port of Kinshasa and then we got on to a boat. And that's where I learned judo and I became a champion in Dakar and other places in Africa and I managed to get to the judo world championships in 2013 here in Brazil and now I have a chance, I got the opportunity to be part of the 2016 Olympic Games. I am extremely happy and I am going to struggle to win medal," Misenga said.

Ethiopian-born marathon runner, Yonas Kinde now trains in Luxembourg and he said he was full of pride to represent refugees around the world.

"It's the first time this team is created by the International Olympic Committee. We are proud to represent millions of refugees and we are happy to present this team and we have to show the respect of the refugees and we have to encourage millions of refugees in the world."

For Kenyan 800-metre runner, Yiech Pur Biel, he hopes the first ever refugee team will inspire more people to become Olympians.

"Whereby now we are living whereby we are tear of sorrow and now we are going to have tear of joy whereby this one will change our lives and it will be a good achievement in our lives and this one we will try and form our life from the past lives that we've passed and now we can call ourselves to be ambassadors for others," he said. "Then after the Games of Rio this is not the end for everything. I hope it is a door or it is an open way for other young talented people."

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