Prior to the war in Syria, Yusra was a competitive swimmer who represented her country in international competitions. As the war intensified, Yusra and her sister left Damascus in early August 2015 and reached Berlin in September 2015.

Since then, Yusra has been training at the Wasserfreunde Spandau 04 club, which is a partner of the Elite Schools of Sport in Berlin. She was selected to compete at Rio 2016 as part of the first ever Refugee Olympic Team and was appointed the youngest ever UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador in April 2017.

In November 2022, a biographical film, inspired by Mardini’s life and titled “The Swimmers”, was theatrically released and distributed on Netflix later the same month.