In this interview with Close-up Culture, 14-time Karate World Champion Veronika Havlik speaks about her career and lifestyle.
Q: You are a 14-time Karate World Champion. How has karate helped you grow as a person?
A: Becoming a Karate World Champion gave me a lot of power, experience and totally changed my outlook.
I’ll tell you how karate helped me grow as a person… My training for the World Championship was very hard and I wanted to keep getting better and better… To do this, I kept pushing harder in training because I never felt good enough. I was so nervous during my first World Championship competition. I kept thinking that I wasn’t good enough because I didn’t believe myself. It made me feel very sad. After I lost in the first category, I understood that I had to start believing in myself. I had to be focused and be patient because when you work hard nobody can stop you. As soon as you understand this you will always win – it doesn’t matter if it is in life or in sport.
Q: What was the biggest obstacle you faced in your time competing in karate?
A: The biggest obstacle I faced in karate was during my first World Championship… It is a day I remember very well… I was 6th on paper for the call out from a group of 12 women. I was like: ‘Oh yeah, I can do it. I’m not the first one.’ You know, because everybody before the competition told me: ‘If you go on as the first competitor in the first category, you’ll probably not make it to the final.’ But soon after the judges came to me with a bag of small numbered balls and told me to choose one. They were the balls that would decide the call out order… I was like: What? Why? I started to shake because I knew that I would draw ball number 1… and what happened? Of course picked out number 1 …
When I came to Tatami as the first competititor in the first category, I was so nervous that I couldn’t concentrate my mind. I missed out on the final because these nerves lost me points… In karate you can be good enough, but without concentration you cannot win. This day was very hard for me because I remember how much I wanted to win. Still, I’m thankful for this lesson because it totally changed my outlook.
Q: What would be your advice to anyone thinking of training and competing in karate?
A: My advice is to be grateful that you can do what you love. To concentrate your mind, decide your goals, be patient, be strong, train 10 times harder than you can train, and never give up.
Q: I saw you recently spent time at the Alpe di Siusi. Do you feel more in your element on the snow or on the sand?
A: Yes, every winter season I’m with my boyfriend Simon and our dog Yaska at the Alpe di Siusi. We come every year in the winter for the whole season because Simon works as a ski instructor. Before I met Simon, I lived in Miami Beach, so my element was always sand and the ocean.
But since meeting Simon and moving to Italy, skiing and the snow have become my second element. I totally love spending time with my two loves – Simon and Yaska – at the Alpe di Siusi. It is incredible to have the opportunity to ski for the whole season.
Q: Fitness is a big focus of your Instagram page. How do you stay motivated and focused to hit your fitness goals?
A: I stay motivated because my motivation is me.
I want to be better, stronger and fitter than myself – not anyone else. My focus is always to do everything wisely and healthily. My goals aren’t extreme and I can do them calmly. Staying motivated is not easy for a lot of people, but if you change your lifestyle you don’t have as much of a struggle to be focused and to hit your fitness goals.
Q: I imagine you are the type of person who is constantly bucking people’s expectations of you. Tell us something about yourself that people might not know or expect from you.
A: Yes, I’m totally different to what a lot of people think about me and expect from me.
What nobody knows about me? I have a lot of pain in my past because I was bullied by teachers in my school. It happened when I was 15 years old. I never understood why and how adults could be so bad to one child.
But I never gave up and every bit of pain made me stronger. And can you guess what happened when I won my first World Championship in 2010? The school I used to attend put my pictures from the newspapers and magazines on the wall. That’s how proud of me they were. It’s so ridiculous.
Q: What support do Simon and Yaska the Frenchie offer you?
A: My boyfriend and Yaska are my loves. My Family with a big ‘F’. Simon is my real fairy tale prince. He carries me like a princess and supports me in everything that I do. He makes me laugh every day and helps my dreams come true.
Yaska gives us a lot of love. She is the best dog ever. She is so crazy, so sensitive, so cute. Such a good Frenchie girl!
Q: What are your hopes and ambitions for 2020?
A: 2020? My dreams will come true this year. It will be better than every year before, but for now… pssst… it’s still my secret and you’ll find out everything in the right time [winks].