Rio 2016: Teenager Yusra Mardini first to represent refugee team

Yusra Mardini
Yusra Mardini finished first in her heat, but clocked the 41st quickest time overall

A year since fleeing Syria and being forced to swim for her life, Yusra Mardini has become the first athlete to represent the refugee team at Rio 2016.

Syrian Mardini, 18, won her women's 100m butterfly heat, but her time was not quick enough for her to progress.

Mardini's remarkable 25-day journey took her to Beirut in Lebanon, across the Aegean Sea and finally to Germany.

"The only thing I ever wanted was to compete in the Olympics," said Mardini. "Everything was amazing."

In August 2015, Mardini was on a heavily overloaded dinghy bound for the Greek island of Lesbos when the boat lost power. She, her sister Sarah and another woman jumped over the side and spent three and a half hours towing the boat to safety through dangerous seas.

The first ever Refugee Olympic Team will be represented by 10 competitors.

Mardini is one of two Syrian competitors, with five from South Sudan, two from DR Congo and one from Ethiopia. She was a competitive swimmer until she left Damascus with her sister 12 months ago and settled in Berlin.

Her time of one minute, 9.21 seconds placed her 41st overall in the heats, with the top 16 swimmers going through. Sarah Sjostrom of Sweden had the top qualifying time of 56.26 seconds.

"Competing with all these great champions is exciting," she added.

Fellow Syrian Rami Anis will be the next to represent the refugee team at Rio in the pool on Tuesday.

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