Is The Swimmers a true story as latest Netflix must-watch details miraculous storyline

Netflix's new film The Swimmers details the unbelievable story of a Syrian refugee who became an Olympian

The Swimmers
(Image credit: Netflix)

The Swimmers is Netflix's latest must-watch movie but fans are all asking the same question, is The Swimmers based on a true story?

The Swimmers is based on a true story about sisters Yusra and Sarah Mardini who swam for three and a half hours in the Aegean Sea when the motor on their overcrowded dinghy stalled. The real events took place a few years ago and it was only in 2016 that Yusra was selected to participate in the Summer Olympics at Rio de Janeiro. 

Yusra spoke to Time (opens in new tab) magazine about the film and said that she was impressed by its accuracy. "I watched the film for the first time with my sister and we were crying and then laughing and then crying again," said Yusra. “They did an amazing job. The two girls who played us were real sisters from Lebanon so they understood our background."

The actors, Nathalie Issa who plays Yusra Mardini, and Manal Issa who plays Sara Mardini, are sisters in real life and their on-screen connection is one of the highlights that makes this performance so moving. 

The Swimmers

(Image credit: Netflix)

How did the sisters really get from Syria to Germany?

A key part of the plot of the film is the sister's journey out of Syria and into Germany as refugees. In real-life this trip took the sisters 25 days as they traveled by plane, boat, and on foot. 

Yusra and Sara were completely focused on survival when they made the decision to swim in the sea to get to Greece. "I was scared to die, but I felt like someone had to do it to make the boat lighter,” said Sara. The sisters explained that this heroic act was simply a necessity and their three-hour swim was the only possible way they could survive.

Once they survived the boat journey, Yusra explained that they then used any mode of transport to get from Greece to Germany. "Then it was by foot, we walked, used buses, taxis, whatever we could use," she said.

The Swimmers

(Image credit: Netflix)

How did Yusra do in the Olympics?

In real life as part of the Refugee Olympic Team at the 2016 Summer Olympics, Yusra competed in the 100 meters freestyle and the 100 meters butterfly. She won in the 100-meter butterfly heat against four other swimmers and ranked 41st among 45 entrants. Her final time in the competition was 1:09.21.

Where are Yusra and Sara now?

After the sisters arrived in Germany, Yusra focused on a professional swimming career and in 2017 she became the youngest-ever Goodwill Ambassador for the UN refugee agency.

Sara returned to Greece in 2016 and now works to provide aid to other refugees. Sara spent 107 days in prison after charges went against her and some of her other colleagues on suspicion of trafficking and smuggling migrants into Greece. She was also accused of money laundering and spying, but was released on bail and still maintains her innocence. 

The Mardini family now lives in Berlin and they hope to return to Syria when it is safe to do so. 

Laura is a news writer for woman&home who primarily covers entertainment and celebrity news. Laura dabbles in lifestyle, royal, beauty, and fashion news, and loves to cover anything and everything to do with television and film. She is also passionate about feminism and equality and loves writing about gender issues and feminist literature.


Laura loves drinking and eating and can often be found trying to get reservations at London's trendiest restaurants. When she's not wining and dining, Laura can also be found travelling, baking, and hiking with her dog.