Alyssa Moore
August 06, 2016 11:40 am
PEDRO UGARTE/AFP/Getty Images

The ten most talked-about athletes at this year’s Rio Olympics don’t have a national flag. They have no national anthem. And until recently, some of them had no homes.

They represent the first-ever Refugee Olympic Team, with members hailing from Syria, Ethiopia, South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. They’ll compete under the Olympic banner in an awe-inspiring variety of sports — judo, swimming, marathon, and track and field. And while we’re definitely rooting for some major victories, the athletes themselves insist that it’s not just about going for the gold. 

18-year-old Yusra Mardini, a a Syrian swimmer who’ll compete in the 100m freestyle, explained that her Olympic experience represents more than winning a medal.

She said, “I want everyone to think refugees are normal people who had their homelands and lost them not because they wanted to run away and be refugees, but because they have dreams in their lives and they had to go.”

(BTW, here’s photographic evidence of her swimming like a total boss.)

Clive Rose/Getty Images

Teammate and judo champion, Yolande Mabika, originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo, also told The Guardian that she wants to make a bold stand for refugees worldwide.

“Everybody in the world talks about the refugees having no major importance,”  she said. “We are going to show that the refugee is capable of doing everything that other people around the world do.

Buda Mendes/Getty Images

Two words: GO TEAM!

The athletes are already making headlines for refugee awareness, walking just before Brazil in the Olympic opening ceremonies Friday night. The thousands-strong crowd gave them a standing ovation that nearly brought the house down.

The International Olympic Committee (who selected and sponsored the refugees in conjunction with national committees) has promised to continue supporting the athletes and their incredible mission even after the Games have concluded. That means that even after Rio, we’ll be able to follow the athletes’ well-deserved careers and their inspiring campaign for refugee awareness.

For now, you can find out more about these unbelievable Olympians and their entourage in their official bios. And you can make sure to catch the competition here!

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