Youth Olympic mixed team competition ignores language barriers

One of the highlights of the Youth Olympic Games is the mixed nation mixed team competition, which pairs athletes from different countries.

It’s unique as a concept in the archery world. Not only is it the only major tournament in which national shirts mix, but the make-up of the pairs is also completely unknown until after qualification. That’s because the mixed teams are made according to the results, the highest-scoring girl matched with the lowest-scoring boy, and so on.

It throws up unusual partnerships, like New Zealand and Chinese Taipei or Argentina and Thailand. There are obvious obstacles to overcome – none more so than language. 

“I find it a bit difficult because sign language is what’s left and I’m not very good at it but my coach is helping me and I’m learning how to express myself better,” said Mexico’s Valentina Vazquez, paired in Buenos Aires with Alikhan Mustafin of Kazakhstan.

Unlike previous Youth Olympic Games in which the first round of the mixed team event took place almost immediately after qualification, giving the athletes little time to adjust, this time it was scheduled for the following day. It’s given everyone much more time to get comfortable.

Normally, you have more understanding with someone from your country because you get to train together, shoot together and know that person more,” said Spain’s Jose Manuel Solera. “But here it’s also good to shoot with someone new, get to know that person and understand how that other person likes to shoot.”

Nicole Marie Tagle from the Philippines and her teammate from Estonia, Hendrik Oun, won their first-round match against a pair from Chile and Sri Lanka in a shoot-off, scoring 19 to their opponent’s 17.

“I think I can speak for both of us,” said Nicole. “This was a great experience.”

Hendrik added, with some accompanying sign language from Nicole: “She does 50%, I do 50%. This is how it works and we communicate very well.”

France’s Kyla Touraine-Helias said it best:

“Not speaking the same language shouldn’t affect the shooting because we all have to shoot the same arrows. Our language is archery and we both do that.”

The Youth Olympic Games takes place on 12-17 October 2018 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.