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photo by Velo Images

The Turkish Champion requested his release, citing recent Middle East tensions that affected him 


The Israeli team tried to change his mind: "Our doors will be left open and we will not be deterred from our message of peace through sports"


Orken: "I am thankful to the team that treated me like family"


Tel Aviv - December 21, 2017


In what Israel Cycling Academy has called, “A heart breaking decision,” the first Israeli professional cycling team has agreed to release Turkish champion Ahmet Orken from his UCI contract upon his request.


In September, Orken signed a two-year agreement with the Israel Cycling Academy, in what was widely seen as a striking message of peace through sport. Orken recently completed the team's first training camp and soon thereafter, was named a Peace Ambassador by the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation, as part of the team's commitment to enhance peaceful coexistence through sport. 


Ahmet Orken leaves Israel Cycling Academy

photo by Velo Images


Tensions in the Middle East increased, however, in the days following President Trump's December 6th announcement that the United States would recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital. Soon thereafter, Orken contacted team officials and requested to be released, citing, “The effect that the recent events in the middle East had on me and my family.”


Ahmet Orken abandons ICA

photo by Noa Arnon


After speaking with Orken, General Manager Ran Margaliot immediately traveled to the rider's hometown of Konya, Turkey, to find a way for Ahmet to stay with the team. After extensive discussions with Orken and his family, the rider agreed to take some time to reconsider. But as pressure continued to mount on the 25-year old, he spoke with Margaliot and team officials once again, this time requesting a formal release.


On Wednesday, Margaliot and team ownership agreed to grant Orken's request.


Ahmet Orken resigns from Israel Cycling Academy

photo by Noa Arnon


"This is heartbreaking for all of us,” said Margaliot. “Ahmet is a great athlete and a great person. He joined our program with a vision and commitment to putting sport--and with it, peace--above politics. It was a brave decision and one that was received with widespread support and approval among the Israeli and Turkish people. While we are disappointed by his decision, we only want what is best for him and his family. The doors of Israel Cycling Academy will be open for Ahmet and we certainly hope to see him rejoin us.” Margaliot made it clear that, “Though it makes us all sad to see Orken leave, we will not be deterred from our deep belief in this team’s message of peace and co-existence.”


Ahmet Orken released from ICA contract

photo by Velo Images


Ahmet Orken said in a statement, “I am so thankful for the opportunity I received from Israel Cycling Academy. Unfortunately, recent events have forced my hand. My family in Konya--and especially my mother and brother--have found themselves in a dire situation. While I am thankful to be a professional cyclist, I am a dedicated son and brother first and foremost. I remain deeply thankful to the team, I have been treated like family from the very beginning. This was a unique opportunity for me both on and off the bike. I will continue to cheer for this program moving forward--both on and off the bike.”


Ahmet Orken quits ICA

photo by Velo Images

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