Directed by Sally El Hosaini, Netflix’s biographical film ‘The Swimmers’ revolves around Syrian sisters Yusra and Sara Mardini, who aspire to compete in the Olympics. The two swimmers get forced to leave their country when the Syrian civil war threatens their family. Yusra and Sara team up with their cousin Nizar Mardini and leave for Turkey, from where they try to travel to Greece in a dinghy. When the boat starts to sink, Yusra and Sara even start swimming to the land.
The film progresses through Yusra’s efforts to fulfill her ambition of becoming an Olympian while dealing with the difficulties of being a refugee in Germany. Inspired by her incredible life, we have found out more about her current whereabouts! Here’s everything you need to know about the same!
Who is Yusra Mardini?
Yusra Mardini was born on March 5, 1998, in Darayya, a suburb of Damascus, the capital city of Syria. She was trained by her father and swimming coach Ezzat Mardini, along with her sister Sara Mardini. In the 2012 FINA World Swimming Championships, Yusra represented her country in three categories. When the Syrian civil war threatened the lives of her family, Yusra and Sara started their journey to Germany along with multiple relatives. The two sisters joined another 18 individuals to cross the Aegean Sea to end up in Greece in a dinghy.
Since the dinghy couldn’t hold 18 people, Yusra and Sara had to step out of the same and swim to the land. Yusra swam for around three hours to reach Lesbos, a Greek island. Yusra eventually arrived in Germany, where she met coach Sven Spannenkrebs of Wasserfreunde Spandau 04, a swimming club in Berlin. With the help of Sven, Yusra participated in the 2016 Rio Olympics as part of the Refugee Olympic Team. The swimmer won a 100m Butterfly heat and ranked 40th in the same category and ranked 45th in the 100m Freestyle.
Where is Yusra Mardini Now?
Yusra’s participation in the Rio Olympics changed her life. In 2017, around one year after the Rio Olympics, she became the goodwill ambassador of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, which offered her a stage to fight for the rights of refugees all over the world. “I could not be more proud to be part of the UNHCR family and #TeamRefugees. I want to encourage all refugees to continue with education and not stop at one point in their lives,” the swimmer told the press after becoming a part of the UN. In the same year, she traveled to Japan to “build empathy and understanding of refugees” before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
In 2018, Yusra met several refugees who had to endure several similar difficulties as she faced in Sicily, Italy, as part of UNHCR. In the same year, she published an autobiography titled ‘Butterfly: From Refugee to Olympian – My Story of Rescue, Hope, and Triumph.’ Meanwhile, Yusra’s family managed to move to Germany, joining her and her sister Sara. Yusra returned to the Middle East in 2019 as part of UNHCR to interact with Syrian refugees who lived in Zaatari Refugee Camp, Jordan.
Yusra was part of the Refugee Olympic Team that participated in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and she carried the flag of her team in the athletes’ parade in the opening ceremony of the event. The swimmer qualified for the Syrian team for the 2020 Olympics to fulfill her childhood ambition of representing her country but then decided to join the refugee team. “I always represent Syria in everything I do, but refugee is my identity now,” she told Guardian about her decision. Yusra finished third in her heat and failed to progress to the semi-finals of the women’s 100m Butterfly category.
In 2022, Yusra joined the University of Southern California. “I’m so happy to finally announce that I am attending the school of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California as a Film and Tv Production Major. It all feels so unreal to me especially when I think of where I come from and why I am where I am now,” she shared about the same. Yusra is seemingly dating Evangelos “Vaggelis” Makrygiannis, a fellow swimmer who is attending USC as well. Vaggelis also participated in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics as part of Greece’s men’s 4×100 medley relay team.
Yusra is nurturing several ambitions for her future. “One day I want to start my own fashion brand. […] I’m interested in fashion, acting, and the entertainment world. Those are my ambitions for now, but they change very quickly to be honest,” she said in the same Guardian interview. But helping refugees will always remain an integral part of her life. “I will always work for refugees because I will always be one – even though I just got my German passport,” Yusra added. Through ‘The Swimmers,’ the swimmer is trying to give voice to the several voiceless refugees she had met throughout her journey.
“Lots of people don’t have a happy ending. We wanted to tell this story so that everyone can think about them, too. The goal of this movie is way bigger than my story – we want it to make an impact on the world,” Yusra further added to Guardian.