Entertainment & Arts

Teenage girl refugee who swam at Olympics inspires film

Yusra Mardini Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Yusra Mardini was in the Olympic Refugee Team

A teenage refugee who fled Syria and went on to swim at the Rio Olympics is to have her story turned into a film.

Yusra Mardini and her sister Sara were forced to swim for hours alongside their overloaded boat as it crossed from Turkey to Greece.

Yusra later competed for the first ever Refugee Olympic Team at the 2016 games.

UK production company Working Title has agreed to buy the rights to her story for a film that Stephen Daldry is tipped to direct.

Image copyright Getty Images

"It's rather important that we find someone who can act and swim," he told the Daily Mail.

Mardini, 18, the daughter of a swimming coach, left her hometown with her sister in 2015 after their house was destroyed in the Syrian conflict.

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

In the final part of the journey, Mardini, Sara and another young woman dragged the broken-down boat full of refugees - many of whom could not swim - towards the shore, clinging to a rope dangling from the side.

Mardini's first German home would temporarily be a refugee camp, and one of her first questions in this unfamiliar city concerned finding the nearest swimming pool.

'They accepted us'

An Egyptian translator put the sisters in touch with Wasserfreunde Spandau 04, one of Berlin's oldest swimming clubs.

"They saw our technique, saw it was good, they accepted us," she says.

After training there, she became one of two Syrians to be chosen by the International Olympic Committee for its first refugee team.

She won her qualifying heat in the 100 metres butterfly, though her time was not quick enough for her to progress.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Stephen Daldry said he hoped her story would "speak for many"

"This is just a great story about a kid with an ambition, just like Billy Elliot," said Working Title's Eric Fellner.

Daldry received an Oscar nomination in 2001 for directing Billy Elliot and went on to direct the West End musical version.

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