White Line Curve

Emona Ivanova and the Journey to the Big Dream

The “Mihaleva for Hope” foundation firmly believes that talented individuals should be given the necessary support to succeed. In a recent update, we shared with you the story of Emona Ivanova, who, like us, is fighting for equality and a brighter future while pursuing her Olympic dreams. Towards the end of last year, we supported her in participating in an international badminton tournament held in Dubai, which is a crucial step towards achieving her ultimate goal. We had the opportunity to meet her in person and learn more about her journey. 

Hello Emona. We’re delighted to have the opportunity to talk to you. Could you tell us a bit more about yourself?

Hello, I’m Emona, 29 years old, born in Svishtov. I grew up in foster care, where a lot of emphasis was placed on sports. In 2007, I started training in badminton.

Why did you choose badminton?

The person who first introduced me to this sport was my rehabilitator. Before that, I played table tennis, but the moment I saw badminton, I knew it was my sport. It can be said that badminton chose me.

Initially, you started training just for pleasure. When did your professional journey begin?

When I started, this sport was not yet part of the Paralympics. For this reason, my professional journey began in 2017, with some interruptions due to the pandemic. Last year, competitions started, and it marked the most intense preparation for me.

What motivates you to continue training?

One reason is my health condition, as I was born with a mild form of spina bifida (a spinal cord deformation), and sports help me stay in shape. However, my greater motivation is to show that people with disabilities can achieve success and to pass on this motivation to others in less fortunate situations.

We know that your biggest dream is a quota for the Paralympics in the summer. Who supports you the most on your journey to achieving it?

My greatest support is my coach, Rumyana, with whom I go through many challenges to achieve this dream. We met in 2017 at my first competition in Turkey, and since then, we’ve been on the path to the Paralympics together. My friends also support and motivate me a lot.

Last year, you finished in 3rd place in the European Championship, which was your first. How does it feel to participate in such a significant competition?

The feeling of participating in such a major competition is truly incredible. I had set a goal not to return without a medal, and I’m very happy that I managed to win one. I was also very close to returning with a second one from the doubles discipline with my partner from Italy, Rosa di Marco.

In mid-February, you will participate in a larger competition – the World Championship. What are your goals for it?

My goal for the World Championship is to achieve the best possible ranking to secure a quota for the Paralympics. The regulations for the largest sports event are quite strict, and only 8 athletes from my category will be able to qualify. I hope my performance at the World Championship will help me climb the rankings, as I currently hold the 13th position.

Could you please tell us if there is any sports personality that inspires you?

I am most inspired by the Paralympic athlete Ivanka Koleva. She no longer competes, but she achieved numerous successes, including a gold medal at the 2000 Paralympic Games. I am greatly inspired by her constant motivation to win. Regarding badminton, I can say that I admire sisters Stoevi the most (three times European champions in badminton).

In addition to intensive training, you are also a student at the Mining and Geological University. What is your field of study?

I am studying Industrial Management for my master’s degree. This year, I plan to enroll at the National Sports Academy, as I want to have a sports education. I aim to continue with sports even after my competitive career.

Do you have hobbies or something you love to do in your free time?

I love to travel and spend time outdoors with my friends. My favorite places in Bulgaria are Lukovit, Troyan, and Lovech.

You have traveled quite a bit outside Bulgaria for competitions. Is there a country you want to visit again?

I loved Australia and Japan the most, and I want to go back there. In Europe, the Netherlands impressed me the most – the first country I visited.

We are familiar with the fun side of badminton, playing outdoors in the park, for example. According to you, is there interest, and what needs to be done to popularize its competitive form in the hall?

I think there has been a significant interest in badminton in the last 2-3 years, as many halls have opened. However, it is essential to talk about the benefits of this sport, which helps develop reflexes and coordination. After all, it is one of the most accessible sports, as it can be played anywhere.

Would you like to thank someone or wish for something?

I want to thank the Ministry of Youth and Sports, the Bulgarian Paralympic Federation, and, of course, the “Mihaleva for Hope” foundation. Many people supported us last year, and I don’t want to miss anyone, but your foundation reached out to us at a very crucial moment, and thanks to you, I participated in the last tournament of 2023. It was an exceptionally important step towards my dream.

Thank you for this interview; we’re delighted that we could have this conversation. We wish you much success, and we believe you will achieve your dream. We’ll be following your achievements with interest and hope to meet again soon.

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