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Refugee athletes to show world how sports transfer their lives through Rio 2016

Updated: 2016-07-31 09:02

Refugee athletes to show world how sports transfer their lives through Rio 2016

Syria's Yusra Mardini smiles during a news conference ahead of the 2016 Rio De Janeiro Olympics. [Photo/Agencies]

RIO DE JANEIRO -- Yusra Mardini and her teammates from the first ever Refugee Olympic Team (ROT) told a press conference here on Saturday that bearing the Olympic flag in the upcoming Rio Games is a life-changing opportunity.

"It's absolutely an honor for me to compete in Olympics. It's all athletes' dream," said the Syria origin, who will attend the women's 100m butterfly and 100m freestyle swimming in Rio 2016.

"I want to send a message not only to refugees in Syria but those all over the world that you have to move on since life has to continue even though your country is broken," added the 18-year-old who was received by Germany after the war in Syria intensified in 2015 and has been since training at a German club in Berlin.

Ten refugees including Yusra will participate in the Rio Olympic Games under the Olympic flag as the International Olympic Committee formed the unique team for athletes that have fled conflict-riven countries and regions.

The team includes five runners from South Sudan, two swimmers from Syria, two judokas from the Democratic Republic of Congo and a marathon runner from Ethiopia, besides five coaches and five other officials.

"It's a special team. It's not an easy team," said Tegla Loroupe, the ROT's chef de mission. "Although their country is broken, the spirit of unity and of Olympism is always with them."

Talking about how sports make changes to life, the former marathon world record holder of Kenya said: "I was able to open my eyes through sports and made to have faith in others. I was also through sports to become successful."

"It was sports that give them wisdom and confidence to fight for life and not to lose hope," she added.

Yusra's fellow Syrian Rami Anis is to participate in the men's 100m butterfly and 100m freestyle in Rio. He admitted that it's a little bit sad not able to compete under his country's flag but he's very proud to compete in the ROT.

"I want to represent a good image of refugees by competing here, and I hope in Tokyo 2020 there's no longer refugees and we all compete under our own flag," said the 25-year-old who left Syria five years ago when the war started and moved to Belgium in late 2015.

"We felt really sad about the war in our country but we did not give up on sports," he said. "I hope all refugee athletes continue their training as the Olympic committee and the whole international society provide them the supports they need."

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