Ahmet Örken, a 24-year-old cyclist who has dominated the Turkish cycling scene for the last four years, has joined pro-continental Israel Cycling Academy (ICA) to become the first Turkish athlete to join a cycling team at this level.
“I waited for a chance to ride for a successful Pro team that is on the move and I am sure that with ICA I can make my dreams come true,” Örken, who recently won the sprinter’s green jersey at the Tour of Qinghai Lake, told his new club’s website on Sept. 18.
“My biggest motivation joining this team was the chance to win races but I also strongly believe that it also a great chance to contribute to peace and brotherhood,” said Örken, adding that he had no concerns about joining an Israeli team considering the recent tensions in the ties between Turkey and Israel.
“Joining an Israeli team has never crossed my mind as being a problem whatsoever. On the contrary, everyone around me has supported my decision with great enthusiasm,” the cyclist said.
His new club said Örken will race with the Turkish flag adorning his team outfit.
“We signed Ahmet first and foremost because he possesses a great talent waiting to flourish,” said ICA manager Ran Margaliot.
“But we are also extra proud of having him join his Israeli teammates in their quest to make history together and reach a Grand Tour for the first time ever for both countries. Is there a better example of how sports can change the world around us and bring people together? We feel this team have obligations far beyond cycling,” he added.
What welcome news, especially considering we are so used to athletes from Muslim countries refusing to compete against Israeli athletes, let alone join them!