Belarus’s Uladzislau Babkevich at the U19 World Championship in Tunisia
Tunis, Tunisia, August 29, 2019 – Who if not I – that’s the motto that has been leading Belarusian rising star Uladzislau Babkevich along the difficult path to success. At the premises of the 2019 FIVB Boys’ U19 Volleyball World Championship in Tunis, the 18-year-old 206-cm-tall opposite, who is the best scorer of his team and one of the best overall in the tournament so far, spoke to fivb.com about his volleyball career, about his goals and about the things he likes to do outside the favourite sport.
How did you get into volleyball?
Uladzislau Babkevich: A friend of mine invited me to volleyball practice once and this is how I started to play the sport. I continued to play tennis, alongside volleyball, for about a year, but then I dropped it in favour of my new passion. I liked volleyball better because you get to jump and to spike. None of my relatives are involved with volleyball, but my family loves sports and since early childhood they have instilled in me the love for physical activity and healthy way of life.
Uladzislau Babkevich likes to spike
Who was your first coach and which was his most important piece of advice to you?
Uladzislau Babkevich: My first coach, Vladimir Astafyev, was champion of the USSR and a member of the Soviet national team. The most important thing he taught me was to be persistent.
Tell us about your volleyball career so far.
Uladzislau Babkevich: I was a fifth-grader when I started. I played at the sports school in my home town of Grodno before I was called up to Minsk to join the youth national team. In 2017 we finished fifth at the U17 European Championship, in 2018 we came fifth on the continent in U18 and eighth in U20. We participated in this year’s European Youth Olympic Festival in Baku and took fourth. In 2019 I was also called to the men’s national team. We earned silver in the European Golden League and bronze at the FIVB Challenger Cup. Of course, I would love to play at the upcoming men’s European Championship, but at this point I don’t know if I’m going to be called to the national team for it.
What does it feel like to be on the men’s national team at such an early age?
Uladzislau Babkevich: It has been great! I am the youngest player on the squad, but I was well received. Everyone has been trying to teach me something, to share their experience with me. I sense the coach has confidence in me. It is inspiring!
At the European Youth Olympic Festival you were the flag-bearer for your country. How did that make you feel?
Uladzislau Babkevich: It was a great honour for me to be the flag-bearer for my country. I was a little bit surprised, but very, very happy. Of course, I dream of having the same honour at the big Olympics one day and I am confident that I will at least have the opportunity to play at the Olympic Games and have a good playing career, in general.
Babkevich and his U19 teammates pay tribute to the national anthem
What are the goals you have set for yourself in your volleyball career that motivate you in your daily training routine?
Uladzislau Babkevich: I want to be the best of the best and this ambition keeps me motivated to train hard every day. I would like to play in the Italian league one day and win gold there. With the national team I hope to qualify for the VNL soon. I would like to be successful enough to support my parents and give them a good life.
What do you like to do in your free time outside volleyball?
Uladzislau Babkevich: I like reading books. My favourite one is Lord of the Flies. I am also a big music fan. I like all kinds of music, but I prefer rock and my favourite band is Sum 41. I enjoy travelling and the USA and Japan are among my dream destinations. I am fascinated by Japanese culture. Of course, I like spending time with my girlfriend. Her name is Karina and she goes to school in my home town. She is very supportive and I can always rely on her.
What is your motto?
Uladzislau Babkevich: Who, if not I.