Thursday 11 April 2013

The Real BiBa Fever is in Table Tennis!

BiBa Golic is an icon in table tennis and in the image of female sports and a player I have wished to interview since I started my blog nearly 2 years ago. Collaborating with Killerspin, I have been given that opportunity and BiBa has given some of the best answers to date of any interview I have posted here. Thank you so much BiBa and also the Rajeev Sharma for helping to organise this interview!

Name: BiBa Golic
Date of Birth: November 9th, 1977
Nation Represented: Republic of Serbia

BiBa Golic, one of the world's most recognised female table tennis icons

Blade: Killerspin Diamond CQ (Flare Handle)
FH Rubber: Killerspin Fortissimo 2.0
BH Rubber: Killerspin Fortissimo 2.0

At what age did you start playing table tennis and how did you come to be a part of the sport?
I started playing at the age of 9. My father was a sports enthusiast and he loved to play table tennis along with other sports like basketball, handball and soccer. He introduced me and my sister to table tennis by bringing us table tennis paddles and balls. He showed us how to bounce the ball on the racketthis skill became my obsession; I wanted to be able to bounce the ball as well as my dad did so I started practicing at home. The next step was to be able to bounce the ball off the wall. After that I signed up to learn table tennis at the local club and that started my journey to becoming a professional player.

You became a member of the Serbian National team early in your career, what was your training schedule like in a week?
I entered the Serbian National Team when I was a cadet (12 years old) and progressed to become a member of national team. I trained 4-6 hours each day.

What has the biggest achievement of your career been to date?
I was national champion at a relatively young age. I have won a total of 9 national titles in my career. They all mean a lot to me. I finished second at the US Open with my doubles partner, Gina Pota, from Hungary. I was really disappointed that we didnt win; we were so close! In another tournament I was playing against World and Olympic Champion Wang Nan and missed a chance to be one of the few women in the world to ever beat her. She is an amazingly strong player.

Below are some highlights from my career:
  • 7 - Yugoslavian Championship Titles
  • 4 - US National Collegiate Championship Titles
  • 2 - Balkan Championship Titles
  • Mediterranean Champion
  • Multiple Regional Titles
  • US Open Runner-up
  • Bronze – European Championships

How do you feel your career in table tennis has changed over the years?
First, I have never thought I will be in the sport after I retired from playing for the Serbian National Team. Not that I never wanted to stay in the sport, it is just that there were not so many opportunities for women in Serbia. I think the biggest change in my career happened with the decision I made to move to the United States. At the time I played the best league in Europe, the Bundesliga in Germany. The season was very intense and I felt I needed a change. I wanted to extend my educational horizons while still playing table tennis. This opportunity was presented to me via scholarship at Texas Wesleyan University. At that time I was already sponsored Killerspin, which I knew was the coolest table tennis brand. This transition to the US wasnt easy but I had a goal to educate myself in business which kept me motivated through the years. 

Now when I look back I realize how much I have grown as a person; learning and using a different language every day, being immersed in a new culture and experiences alternative perspectives in world of sports business. Also, to be the only female table tennis athlete in the US that received so much media attention was something new to me, something that I also needed to adjust to and take in. All these things were not really part of my life while living in Serbia and it took time to accept these facts and treat them as part of my new life. Being involved with Killerspin exposed me to the world of media; by being the spokesperson for the brand I was able to promote the sport of table tennis. Also, this role allowed me to participate in some extraordinary Killerspin events, movie projects, commercials etc. 

It is still amazing when I look back and go over all the things I was part of and to say that this happened exclusively because of table tennis!!! I feel blessed that I have had the opportunity to stay in the sport I love, grow as a businesswoman and contribute to the advancement of the sport.

Stunning both on and off the table. The lovely BiBa Golic in action.

You were named one of ESPN's sexiest females in sport and also SPIKE TV's Guy's Choice award for hottest athlete. Do you think image is something important for the development of women's table tennis internationally?
I think being yourself, along with having charisma, are important aspects of building an audience and when these are backed up by results and a compelling story the attention finds you!

How did it feel for you to receive this kind of recognition?
It felt totally weird and unexpected. At first I did not know how to react to the Guys Choice Award contest. It was something I wasnt familiar with and came as a big surprise... I wasnt aware that people are paying attention to these kinds of things. I guess this confirms that in show business look is also important along with the personality, the character and the way you represent yourself as well as the story you carry along. In the end I was glad to be recognized by the Guys Choice and that I had the opportunity to represent our sport in the celebrity world. 

Guys Choice Awards was truly an amazing event, which awarded me a lot of media exposure. However, this award truly came after I appeared in one of the ESPN commercials to promote ESPNs online campaign. The commercial was calledfollow your sportand it was broadcasted nationally across all of ESPNs channels at the time. Once they released the commercial, the name BiBa Golic appeared 2nd on the Yahoo search of the day. That was pretty amazing!

What do you enjoy most about playing table tennis?
I have experienced table tennis in many different ways throughout out my career. First, when I started to play on a regular basis it was a way for me to connect with my father. I really got to know his character outside of home, actually outside of the regular role that fathers have. His passion for the sport and competition really got transferred to me through table tennis. I admired those personality values. Also, my first goal in table tennis was to beat my dad! That was a big mountain to climbSecondly, I enjoyed the process of developing the skills of the game. Third, learning the tactics of the game really forced my brain to work and focus! 

Later on, I experienced the joy of competing, of course with this came the time when I learned what it feels like when you win and the least pleasant feeling when you lose. Since retiring from professional competition I enjoy table tennis as a form of exercise and to keep myself fit. In summary, table tennis played a big role in developing the person I am today.

BiBa hanging out with Hollywood actress Halle Berry!

What has been your favorite table tennis event to play at since the beginning of your career?
From the entertainment perspective, I really think that the event that left an unforgettable memory was the Killerspin Extreme in Chicago. The production was extraordinary. The event was opened by a guy that was playing the American anthem on an electric guitar! There were only 4 courts surrounded by thousands of people in the audience, which caused an amazing focus on the players so the atmosphere was intense and dramatic. The introduction of the athletes was orchestrated in an unusual way. 

The athletes were escorted each by a person a female model that was escorting male players or a masculine athlete that was escorting female players. The music and the lighting were so well coordinated with what was happening on the ground. Also, the filming crew was incredible by picking the most unusual angles to capture the most amazing shots performed by players. I have never been in a position to add to such a strong table tennis entertainment event.

What has been your favorite publicity event and why?
The Chicago International Table Tennis Festival hosted by Killerspin in the fall of 2012. The reason is that I had the opportunity to give a lot of interviews promoting the event and encourage the crowd to come stop by and witness what table tennis is like with the best players in the world. Also, the Chinese Delegation attended and I had opportunity to welcome the top players in the World to my city. I took this as a great privilege and honor.

Do you have any big goals you would like to achieve in the near future for table tennis?
My goal is always to help the sport to grow.

Supporting feminine sport apparel for Table Tennis
A classic shot of BiBa from Killerspin

What do you think of the shorts vs. skirts/dresses debate in women's table tennis, do you think women in table tennis should dress in a more feminine manner?
Definitely, after all we are women. We should be dressed like women. I think it is a stereotype which has been seeded long time ago around the unisex clothes that women have unconsciously accepted. Killerspin has done a lot to break that habit and push for a more feminine look. I truly hope that with the time we will only see skirts and womens-cut shirts to be worn by female players. There are so many beautiful girls in our sport. I dont think anyone should be ashamed of the athletic body. It should be the same as it is in womens tennis!

Who is your favorite female player to watch?
Ding Ning

What do you like to do in your spare time for fun?
I like to spend a lot of time outdoors. I really enjoy the nature a lot; it relaxes me. I also like to hang out with friends. Go see a movie, or go to some of my favorite restaurants or cafes. I like to listen to a live band.

If you won $1million what would be the first thing you would do?
Put it in the bank!

Where is your favorite holiday destination?
My favorite holiday destination is taking a trip to Serbia to visit my family.

What advice can you give female players out there to succeed in table tennis?
To work hard, educate and believe.

A classic video from the Killerspin Spinvitational
BiBa Golic vs. Soo Yeon Lee

Thank you so much for the chance to interview you, I have been looking forward to this opportunity for a while :D


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