“Remember where you come from, harness it and leave it on the road,” Coach Gudo Kramer advises Firas Warda, a young Syrian cyclist who’s in the middle of trying out for a place on the Marco Polo Cycling Team, an elite amateur group of talented individuals that came to Europe as refugees.
Giving people from countries where bike racing isn’t considered a traditional sport a route towards the very top level in cycling, the team has so far competed in many pro races—including the biggest races in Asia and Africa. To date, around 20 of the team’s riders have made it to the highest level. For example, Wong Kam Po of Hong Kong became world champion on the track. And Fuyu Li of China qualified for the Beijing Games in 2008.
To create a productive team experience that embraces diverse languages and work styles, Kramer considered turning to an online tool like Skype Translator to motivate team members:
“I think it can be a strong tool in getting messages across that need a certain level of detailed understanding,” he asserts. “Often, when two non-native speakers communicate in English, a lot gets lost in translation. It is always easier to get the message in your own language!”
And since it’s accessible wherever there’s an internet connection, team members can use Skype Translator to give each other directions or encouragement no matter where they are.
“Skype Translator is great for clarifying what someone is saying, and feeling more at home in an international environment,” says Kramer.
The ultimate goal of the Marco Polo Cycling Team, according to Kramer, is to make sure that a team for refugee cyclists becomes unnecessary in the near future. The aim is to give these cyclists a chance to find places in regular, mainstream racing teams in their new home countries.
“Our riders do get attention from professional teams already and we will focus increasingly on offering chances to them by placing them in other teams,” he says.
“I think that the background of the riders is a big disadvantage for them,” he continues. “They were not able to train and race for a long time; must get used to a totally new environment; miss their family and friends, etc. But they can use it to get through the suffering and hardship that is required in cycling.”
When asked what types of cycling events he had competed in back home, Firas Warda answered, “I did the Tour de Mazandaran in Iran and some elite and amateur events. After a four-year break in training I’m trying to build myself back up to be as strong a cyclist as I was in Syria.”
Kramer continually encourages his team to stretch themselves and achieve more. “Often even the biggest champions have backgrounds with problems and setbacks. In this way they can use it to their advantage in cycling. What does a little pain in the legs mean, after almost dying in the Mediterranean Sea…?”
The Marco Polo Cycling Team is closely following the Summer Games 2016. “Only one of our riders is competing in Rio. In September, Daniel Abraham is competing for his new home country The Netherlands,” explains Kramer. “He won gold in the road race in the last World Cup race just recently in Bilbao, Spain. We hope to see one or two of our other riders active in Tokyo in 4 years. For our riders, as for any sportsman, it is important to get a spot on those teams. We think for a few of them this may be a realistic goal.”
It is stories like these that inspire us to build products and services that empower people to do more than they could before, even across language barriers. We hope that through Skype Translator, we can help people achieve their goals through relationships and human connections that would have previously been impossible.
Just thinking about the possibilities for this unique team of cyclists makes us want to cheer them on to their highest potential. To us, these guys are already winners.
Skype Translator currently provides real-time voice translation in eight spoken languages: English, Spanish, French, German, Chinese (Mandarin), Italian, Portuguese (Brazilian), and most recently Arabic. This is accompanied by more than 50 written languages, letting you speak to or text with others all over the world, even if you don’t speak the same language. To learn more about how to set up Skype Translator please visit the Skype Translator FAQs.