Syrian Refugee Wins Her Olympic Swimming Heat

Syrian Refugee Wins Her Olympic Swimming Heat

A teenage Olympian used her talent to save the lives of 20 people
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Almost every athlete at the 2016 Olympic Games will have an interesting backstory, but Yusra Mardini's is more extraordinary than most. Mardini, an 18-year-old Syrian refugee has now inspired the entire world winning her Olympic swimming heat on Saturday.

Mardini is one of 10 athletes selected to compete in and be a representative for first ever Olympics team composed entirely of refugees. The men and women from Syria, South Sudan, Ethiopia, and Democratic Republic of the Congo received huge applause when they entered the opening ceremony on Friday.

But while the entire team has reached achievements far beyond what most can comprehend during their struggles getting to Rio, this 18-year-old’s background before the games are truly awe-inspiring and heroic.

Mardini and her sister are responsible for helping to save the lives of 20 people, including their own, after jumping off their sinking dinghy into the Aegean Sea and pushing their boat to land. Thirty minutes after setting off from Turkey, the motor on their boat, which was meant for six people but carrying 20, began to fail. Mardini quickly realized that they all would drown if she did not take it upon herself to save their boat.

“We were the only four who knew how to swim,” she said of the experience. “I had one hand with the rope attached to the boat as I moved my two legs and one arm. It was three and half hours in cold water. Your body is almost like … done. I don’t know if I can describe that.”

Finally, they reached the Greek island of Lesbos, she told the UN Refugee Agency.

“It would have been shameful if the people on our boat had drowned,” she said. “There were people who didn’t know how to swim. I wasn’t going to sit there and complain that I would drown. If was going to drown, at least I’d drown proud of myself and my sister.”

After Lesbos, Mardini and her sister travelled through Macedonia, Serbia, Hungary and Austria before arriving at their final destination: Berlin, Germany.

Mardini had been a swimmer back in Syria, but when unrest settled into her home country, it became unsafe for her to continue.

“Sometimes we couldn’t train because of the war,” she said. “And sometimes you would be swimming in pools where the roofs were [blown open] in three or four places,” she said. "So Sarah (Mardini's sister) and I decided to leave."

In Berlin, Mardini began swimming at a local sports club where she caught the eye of a coach, Sven Spannekrebs. Spannekrebs worked with Mardini day in and day out.

When the International Olympic Committee decided to field a team of refugee athletes to draw global attention to the refugee crisis, Mardini was among those who qualified — barely nine months after she first arrived in Europe.

On Saturday, Mardini won her Women’s 100 meter butterfly swimming heat, posting a time of 1:09:21.

Although her time wasn’t good enough to qualify for the semifinals, Mardini’s victory in her heat has already led people to rejoice on social media.

She says that while she now hates open water, she will always love swimming, no matter her Olympic results. “I remember that without swimming I would never be alive maybe because of the story of this boat. It’s a positive memory for me."

Mardini is equally remarkable for her self-effacing attitude and resilience as she is for her life-saving act. “It's tough,” she said. “It was really hard, for everyone. But sometimes you just have to move on. I just want to make everyone proud, above all. 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.”

Though she may not have won the gold, Mardini did exactly what she came to Rio to do. She became an inspiring symbol of hope, and the world could not be more proud.

Cover Image Credit: http://d5pa5brvrabv4.cloudfront.net/sites/default/files/styles/full_node/public/imagen-sin-titulo_4.jpg?itok=gF7y7_E9

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A Senior's Last Week Of High School

The bittersweet end.
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Well, this is it. This is what we've worked so hard the last four years - who am I kidding - basically what seems like our whole lives for. This is the very last week we will set foot as a student in our high school's hallways. As most schools are getting ready to set their seniors free at last, it all begins to set in - the excitement, the anxiousness, and also the sentiment and nostalgia.

For seniors, the years since our first day as a freshman at the bottom of the high school totem pole have seemed endless, but as we look back on these last few weeks, we realize that this year in particular has gone by extraordinarily fast. It was just yesterday that we were sitting in our classrooms for the very first time, going to our 'last first' practice, and getting our first taste of the (very real) "senioritis". With all that's going on in our lives right now, from sports and clubs, finals, and the sought after graduation ceremony, it's hard to really sit down and think about how our lives are all about to become drastically different. For some it's moving out, and for some it's just the thought of not seeing your best friend on the way to fourth period English; either way, the feels are real. We are all in a tug of war with the emotions going on inside of us; everything is changing - we're ready, but we're not.

THE GOOD. Our lives are about to begin! There is a constant whirlwind of excitement. Senior awards, getting out of school early, parties, and of course Graduation. We are about to be thrust into a world of all new things and new people. Calling our own shots and having the freedom we have so desperately desired since the teenage years began is right around the corner. Maybe the best part is being able to use these new things surrounding you to grow and open your mind and even your heart to ideas you never could before. We get the chance to sink or swim, become our own person, and really begin to find ourselves.

Things we don't even know yet are in the works with new people we haven't even met yet. These friendships we find will be the ones to last us a lifetime. The adventures we experience will transform into the advice we tell our own children and will become the old tales we pass down to our grandkids when they come to visit on the weekends. We will probably hate the all night study sessions, the intensity of finals week, and the overpowering stress and panic of school in general, just like we did in high school... But it will all be worth it for the memories we make that will outlive the stress of that paper due in that class you absolutely hate. As we leave high school, remember what all the parents, teachers, coaches, and mentors are telling you - this are the best times of our lives!

THE BAD. The sentimental emotions are setting in. We're crying, siblings are tearing up, and parents are full-out bawling. On that first day, we never expected the school year to speed by the way it did. Suddenly everything is coming to an end. Our favorite teachers aren't going to be down the hall anymore, our best friends probably won't share a class with us, we won't be coming home to eat dinner with our families...

We all said we wanted to get out of this place, we couldn't wait, we were ready to be on our own; we all said we wouldn't be "so emotional" when the time came, but yet here we are, wishing we could play one more football game with our team or taking the time to make sure we remember the class we liked the most or the person that has made us laugh even when we were so stressed we could cry these past few years. Take the time to hug your parents these last few months. Memorize the facial expressions of your little sister or brother. Remember the sound of your dad coming home from work. These little things we take for granted every day will soon just be the things we tell our college roommate when they ask about where we're from. As much as we've wanted to get out of our house and our school, we never thought it would break our heart as much as it did. We are all beginning to realize that everything we have is about to be gone.

Growing up is scary, but it can also be fun. As we take the last few steps in the hallways of our school, take it all in. Remember, it's okay to be happy; it's okay to be totally excited. But also remember it's okay to be sad. It's okay to be sentimental. It's okay to be scared, too. It's okay to feel all these confusing emotions that we are feeling. The best thing about the bittersweet end to our high school years is that we are finally slowing down our busy lives enough to remember the happy memories.

Try not to get annoyed when your mom starts showing your baby pictures to everyone she sees, or when your dad starts getting aggravated when you talk about moving out and into your new dorm. They're coping with the same emotions we are. Walk through the halls remembering the classes you loved and the classes you hated. Think of the all great times that have happened in our high school years and the friends that have been made that will never be forgotten. We all say we hated school, but we really didn't. Everything is about to change; that's a happy thing, and a sad thing. We all just have to embrace it! We're ready, but we're not...

Cover Image Credit: Facebook

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6 Best Feelings You Get When Playing Volleyball

While you're avoiding getting hit in the face, you just might gain something in return.

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Volleyball can be intimidating to get into, especially if you have had zero experience before. From the extremely bruised forearms to knee burns, it's understandable why people try to avoid this sport as much as possible sometimes. However, after the initial few weeks of struggle, the bruises will disappear, and the knee pains will feel much less terrible. In fact, after experiencing these six feelings, you will get hooked onto the sport.

1. When you get the perfect set

Every team needs a good setter, because without good sets, it is incredibly hard to get good hits. Every once in a while, when you do get that perfect set, you don't have to worry about repositioning closer or further away from the net or where to hit the ball. Instead, all you have to do is swing your arms and hear that satisfying bounce of the ball hitting the floor on the other side of the court.

2. When you dive for a ball and actually save it

Sacrifices to the knees are a must in volleyball, but a lot of times, they're sacrifices in vain. When a dive actually turns into a save, it can be one of the best feelings in the world. Not just because your knees didn't just take another bruise in vain, but because your reflexes have actually improved and you just saved your team a lost point.

3. When you get your first ace

Whether it was your serve that was too fast or the other team that just made a mistake, there's just something extremely satisfying about being able to serve a ball that others cannot return. It may also be due to the fact that you wouldn't have to run back onto the court or spend extra energy on this point, but nevertheless, the pride you feel when you get that ace is priceless.

4. When you find a good team

Some people work better with certain people than others, and when people on your team somehow naturally know how high you liked your sets or covers the areas that you can't at certain moments, as a team you will play much better. This can be attained through training and practice, but when you meet those people who naturally work well with you, you know the game is going to be good.

5. When you get a good rally going

When the ball is going back and forth for five or six times with 3 hits on each side, you have a good rally going on. At the end of it, even if your team loses the point, you'll feel an intense satisfaction from all the adrenaline still coursing through your veins. It's not every day that you can get everyone on the team on their feet, passing, hitting and making great plays!

6. When your teammates become some of your closest friends

This is probably the best reward that you can ever get from playing any sport. Whether it's a group trek to the local donut shop or just walking home together, you could end up meeting some of your closest friends. Volleyball is a team sport, and that bond established through numerous games is something that is irreplaceable. You'll naturally gravitate those who you work well with and find out that honestly, you guys get along pretty well off the court too.

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