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Syria-born Olympian takes advocacy role at U.N. refugee agency

Olympics - Previews - Day - 3

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 02: Syrian swimmer Yusra Mardini of the Refugee Olympic Team attends a press conference on August 2, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Ker Robertson/Getty Images)

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GENEVA (AP) -- The U.N. refugee agency has chosen as a goodwill ambassador a Syrian teenage girl who helped save a boat carrying fellow refugees and later became an Olympic swimmer.

Yusra Mardini was appointed as UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador on Thursday, joining other notables like actress Cate Blanchett and author Khaled Hosseini in the unpaid advocacy role.

UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi said Mardini “represents the hopes, the fears and the incredible potential of the more than 10 million young refugees around the globe.”

Mardini and her sister Sarah jumped overboard and swam for hours alongside their overloaded boat to reach Greece from Turkey in 2015.

She swam on the first Refugee Olympic team in Rio last year and has discussed refugees’ challenges with leaders like Pope Francis and President Barack Obama.

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