How Google Translate helped achieve the Olympic dream: hear London Global Champions Tour winner’s incredible story

Japanese showjumper Mike Kawai lands the spoils in the opening five-star class of the Longines Global Champions Tour in London

  • Japanese showjumper Mike Kawai landed the opening CSI5* class at the London Global Champions Tour with a blistering performance on the talented mare Star. But just last week, 23-year-old Mike was at the Tokyo Olympics fulfilling a dream that just four years ago seemed almost impossible.

    “I came to Europe four years ago because I wanted to jump at the Tokyo Olympics,” explained Mike to H&H. “But when I arrived I was only jumping 1.20m classes and couldn’t speak any English. I went up to Jan Tops and told him I wanted to ride at the Tokyo Olympics – I said I wanted to win the gold medal there too – but because I couldn’t speak English, I had to explain it all to him on my Iphone through Google Translate. He was laughing, but I started training with him and here I am now!”

    Mike was the reserve rider for the Japanese team in the Olympic showjumping at Tokyo with the 11-year-old As De Mai and saw his team-mate Daisuke Fukushima jump-off for the individual medals.

    “I didn’t get the chance to ride but it was an amazing experience for me just to have the chance to be part of an Olympic team,” he said. “I’m just so proud that I got to live my dream. But at the next Olympics in Paris I’m going to get the medal!”

    Talking about Mike, Jan Tops – himself an Olympic gold medallist as well as president and founder of the Longines Global Champions Tour – said to H&H: “He’s a green rider, not so experienced, but he has very good feeling. Horses really like him and always go well for him. He’s a very good ring rider, too.”

    Mike won his first five-star class last year and was delighted to be back performing a lap of honour at the London Global Champions Tour.

    “I came here two or three years ago before Covid and it’s a beautiful place, London is an amazing city,” said Mike. 

    “Star is naturally really quick and super careful – very easy to ride actually in just a normal snaffle bit. But she’s so electric in a jump-off.”

    In Friday’s two-phase, Mike beat long-time leader Evelina Tovek into second place with Cortina 212. Sharing the spoils in equal third were Great Britain’s John Whitaker with Shahid and Andrzej Oplatek of Poland riding Le Cordial.


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