Yusra Mardini
Under Armour

‘I shouldn’t be alive:’ Olympic refugee team swimmer stars in powerful video

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Olympic refugee team swimmer Yusra Mardini signed with Under Armour and starred in a video published by the apparel company Thursday, telling her story of fleeing Syria in August 2015.

“I shouldn’t be alive today,” Mardini said in the video. “I should have been killed by the bomb that hit the pool in Damascus. I should have drowned in the Mediterranean Sea. I should have been one of the many refugees who died along the way, but I am here, alive, because I kept moving. So many things tried to stop me, to break me. So many times something whispered, ‘This, now this, will defeat you.’ But I kept moving. Moving as I left my family behind. Moving through the fear when I was hiding in the forest. Moving through the sea, pulling a boat through the waves. Now, when my exhaustion rises, I remember. And my strength just rises higher. It says greater things than this have tried to stop me, and I keep moving.”

Mardini, 19, swam in Rio about one year after swimming for her life for three hours in the Aegean Sea while fleeing Damascus for Europe. She was one of 10 athletes on the Olympic refugee team.

In fleeing, Mardini, her sister and others went first to Lebanon, then Turkey, where they paid smugglers to take them to Greece.

Mardini has told the story of their hazardous journey on the Aegean Sea many times, of swimming for her life when the overcrowded inflatable dinghy started taking on water even after their luggage was thrown overboard.

“The engine broke and we had to swim three-plus hours to arrive to the other side. Me and my sister and two guys,” Mardini said. “My sister jumped in the beginning and then I jumped after her. We didn’t swim normally, but we had a hand on the boat and hand swimming and then kicked.”

Through their efforts dragging the boat, they eventually made it to the Greek island of Lesbos. An overland trek followed through Macedonia, Serbia and Hungary, where she experienced the worst conditions along her weeks-long journey. They hid from police, got arrested at borders, had belongings stolen and lost money on tickets as authorities refused to let trains pass.

“Hungary was awful. It was really hard,” Mardini said. “Hungary was the biggest fear for all the refugees.”

Eventually, the Mardinis made it to Berlin, where an Egyptian translator at their refugee shelter put them in touch with a local swimming club. A coach quickly realized Mardini’s potential and helped her make the International Olympic Committee’s refugee team for Rio.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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VIDEO: Phelps says he could come back if he wanted to

Michael Phelps: I could come back, if I wanted to (video)

Michael Phelps
TODAY
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Michael Phelps is fit enough that he could come out of retirement. He just has no desire to.

“I feel like I could do it, but I just have nothing that I want to come back and do,” Phelps said on TODAY on Thursday while promoting Colgate’s #everydropcounts water-saving campaign. “I think that’s the biggest thing. For me, it’s now watching some of these kids coming up. Watch somebody like Caeleb [Dressel] and continue to watch Katie [Ledecky]. Who knows who’s going to shine in the next Olympics.”

Phelps said he’s working out more seriously now. The 32-year-old has lost 12 to 15 pounds from his heaviest point since retiring after winning six more medals (five gold) at the Rio Games.

“I wanted to get back into some kind of shape, and then I kind of started lifting,” Phelps said. “The biggest thing is just knowing that for me to be the best husband, the best dad, the hardest worker, I need to work out. It’s something that I have to do at least five or six times per week.”

For those still hoping, Phelps did say in July there was a one or two percent chance he would come back, according to Entertainment Weekly.

“Very minimal,” Phelps said after a laugh then, according to the magazine. “I wanted to retire on my own terms and never have a what-if, and I’m to that point where I’m very content with everything that’s going on.”

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VIDEO: Michael Phelps shares being bullied, depressed in film

Two-time Olympian becomes first woman to lead U.S. national swim team

AP
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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — Two-time Olympian Lindsay Mintenko has been picked to lead the U.S. national swimming team. She is the first woman to hold the title.

USA Swimming made the announcement Wednesday.

Mintenko replaces Frank Busch, who retired Oct. 1 as managing director. She has been a member of the national team staff since 2006.

During her swimming career, Mintenko won gold medals as a U.S. team captain at the 2000 and 2004 Olympics 800m freestyle relay and added a silver in 2004 on the 400m freestyle relay.

USA Swimming also announced an organizational restructuring that will place all technical divisions, including the national team, under the oversight of chief operating officer Mike Unger.

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VIDEO: Michael Phelps shares being bullied, depressed in film