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The Inspiring Story of the Olympic Refugee Team

For the first time in history, the Olympics will have a team of refugees. Here’s their inspiring story.

Refugee Olympic Team

Every four years, the best athletes in the world compete at the Olympics, representing their countries. At the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro, for the first time in history, there will be an Olympic team of refugees from around the world, competing under the Olympic flag. Each member of the team has been displaced from his or her homeland.

The 10 members of the Refugee Olympic Athlete team hail from Syria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia and Sudan and are competing in events from judo to the 100-meter dash, not only for the chance to excel in their sports, but also to bring awareness to the global tragedy of displacement.

“I want everyone to think that refugees are normal humans who had homelands and who lost them,” Syrian refugee Yusra Mardini told USA Today Sports.

Mardini fled Syria a year ago in an overcrowded boat that broke down in the Mediterranean Sea on the way to Europe. She and her sister volunteered to jump out and swim the rest of the way to Greece, pulling the boat behind them, saving the lives of their fellow refugees. Now, she’ll be swimming the 100-meter freestyle at the Games.

Yolanda Mabika was separated from her parents as a young child in the Democratic Republic of Congo. She discoverd judo at a center for displaced children and used the sport to cope with her grief. Now she’ll be competing in judo on the refugee team and hopes not just for a medal, but for a miracle:

“I hope my story will be an example for everybody, and perhaps my family will see me and we will reunite,”she told the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Runner Yiech Pur Biel, fled civil war in Sudan and grew up in refugee camps in Kenya. To compete in the Olympics is not only a dream come true for the athlete, but also an opportunity for healing.

“We have had tears of sorrow. Now we are going to have tears of joy,” Biel told USA Today Sports of what it means for the refugees to compete in the Games. “This will transform our lives from the pain of the past.”

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