Meet the Athlete Role Models: Galia Dvorak

Three-time Olympian Galia Dvorak is one of Spain’s top table tennis players, and heads to the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) Buenos Aires 2018 as an Athlete Role Model (ARM). Here, she discusses how she plans to inspire the young athletes competing at the Games.

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Why did you decide to become an ARM for the YOG?

“I got a call from the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF), and they told me they’d been thinking about appropriate athletes for the ARM position. For the female role model, they wanted someone who could speak Spanish to connect with the young athletes in Buenos Aires, so they thought about me. I was really honoured that the ITTF chose me to take up this position. It made me very happy.”

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What else will you bring to the ARM role?

“One of the reasons why I was chosen was because of my involvement with both the ITTF and the European Table Tennis Union (ETTU) in my role as a players’ representative. I’m the chair of the ETTU Athletes’ Commission, and since May, I’ve also been a member of the ITTF’s Athletes’ Commission. So I’m quite involved in this field, and I’m very close to a lot of the players having played for my national team for 15 years.”

Are there any areas of mentoring that you’re going to focus on?

“I want to specialise and focus on career development to help the young athletes get some ideas about their options once they stop playing table tennis. I think I can help them in this area; besides playing table tennis professionally, I also went to university and got a master’s degree. On top of this, I’d like to specialise in body positivity. As an athlete who is a woman, I’ve learned a lot over the years about how to accept myself. I think the young girls at the YOG could learn a lot from me.”

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What are you most looking forward to about the YOG?

“When I was young, the YOG didn’t exist. I’m very impressed with how much it’s grown during the past two editions, and I think it’s a great idea for the young players to be able to compete in this kind of competition, to feel the Olympic spirit and to learn. As for me, the most exciting part is reliving the Olympic experience. I’ve been to the Olympic Games three times, and each one of those times has been so special. You can’t put it in words. The feeling of being involved in such a big competition and surrounded by so many athletes from so many different sports is so special.”

What do you think of Buenos Aires as a host city?

“I’ve never been to Argentina, let alone Buenos Aires. It’s a huge city, and Latin and South American people are very warm and welcoming. The volunteers and organisers will make a great effort in the running of the YOG – I have no doubt they will do their absolute best to make the athletes and players feel at home. It’s a great choice of venue.”

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What are your predictions for the table tennis competition at the YOG?

“The YOG is going to be a very strong event. We’re experiencing a special moment in table tennis at the moment. There are a number of excellent young Japanese players; recently, 15-year-old Tomokazu Harimoto won the Japan Open at senior level, beating Olympic champions along the way. Unfortunately, the Spanish table tennis players haven’t qualified for this event, but I’m still looking forward to seeing Adriana Diaz from Puerto Rico playing. She’s amazingly good. The way the standards of the young players have improved over the past 10 or 15 years has also been incredible. It’s unbelievable how seriously these kids take the sport, and how professional they are in their early years.”

What advice would you give to the young athletes at the YOG?

“Sport can be difficult. Results come and go, and sometimes you feel like giving up. The best part of the journey is that if you enjoy working hard every day, and you enjoy the sport and the lifestyle, it’s completely worth it. If you try really hard, the results will come in the end. Just work every day on following that dream.”