Yusra Mardini, a talented swimmer, saved lives of fellow refugees in open water while fleeing her war-torn country Syria. She represented Syria at the 2012 FINA World Swimming Championships but was forced to flee her home in Damascus when the fighting got intense. She is now representing the Refugee team at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

In her attempt to escape the on-going conflict in Syria, Mardini and her sister climbed aboard a dinghy built to carry six passengers but actually carried 20 after reaching Turkey across the Aegean Sea. The dinghy broke down just 30 minutes into the journey, and since being one of four people who could swim, including her sister and two others, she swam for three hours straight, pushing the boat to safety and saving the lives of everyone on board.

She personifies a calm and collected exterior, being able to deal with the massive media attention with ease and graceful coolness. Talking to a journalist she recalled the incident, saying that she put on a smile on her face as there was a six-year-old child on the dinghy and did not want him to feel scared despite facing the possibility of death. Her calmness could, to some extent, be attributed to conditions back home. She told that at the local swimming pool where she practiced, the roof had holes in it from all the bombs that used to drop.

Regarding the incident itself, she said, “I remember that without swimming I would never be alive maybe because of the story of this boat. It’s a positive memory for me.”

The 18-year-old athlete now resides in Berlin, Germany, and is looking to compete in the women’s freestyle heat later today after winning her butterfly heat on Monday but failing to qualify for the final. This just goes on to show how vital physical fitness is, since it may even one day save your life.

She has received an outpour of support and positive messages from across the world.