Interview with Ella Sabljak: “It is incredibly important for athletes to be represented within a committee”

Ella Sabljak has recently been announced as the Asia Oceania representative for IWBF’s newly formed Athlete Steering Committee. The 28-year-old has been a mainstay on the Aussie Gliders national team for several years now. She sat down with Rollt.’s Dylan Cummings to discuss her role within the committee.


In summary what is the IWBF Athlete Steering Committee?

“The IWBF Athlete Steering Committee’s purpose is to establish an elected Athlete’s Commission. We have been brought together to establish a common voice for all IWBF athletes. First of all, we need to consider a number of topics such as how to establish and elect a future Athlete’s Commission, how the Commission shall be composed and what duties they shall carry and so on.”


What made you to want to represent IWBF Athletes?

“I was approached by a zone delegate. They asked if I would be interested in being a part of an Athlete Steering Committee and at the time, I wasn’t too sure what I was saying yes to. However, I am so glad I said yes because it has now given us an opportunity to help establish a voice for all athletes.”


In your opinion, why is it important for athletes to be represented within a committee?

“It is incredibly important for athletes to be represented within a committee so that all athletes are supported to succeed. It will be the Athlete Steering Committee’s responsibility to empower all athletes alongside the IWBF in decision-making, so that our voices are heard and respected.”


What needs to be done to ensure the goals of the committee will be achieved?

“That’s what our Athlete Steering Committee have to discuss. We have roughly two years to establish rules, regulations and bylaws so that our future Athlete’s Commission can start off!”



How do you think that you being on this committee will make a difference to wheelchair basketball in Australia and the Asia Oceania Zone?

“The Asia Oceania Zone is so large, we have so many different cultures in one zone, so it’ll be exciting to hear from everyone and try and establish some common goals.”


What would you like to improve within Australia and the Asia Oceania Zone?

“Oh, I’m not too sure just yet! Still very early days. Maybe the humidity?”


What challenges do you think you’ll face in the early stages of the committee and how will you overcome these challenges?

“I think our biggest challenges will be the fact that I’ve never been on an Athlete’s Commission let alone start one up. I am just getting my head around what an Athlete’s Commission looks, sounds and feels like. We are trying to gather as much information surrounding how to establish an Athlete’s Commission. We are looking at how parasport and able-bodied Athlete’s Commissions work so that we can put together a commission that represents all of our athletes.”


Finish this sentence. The IWBF Athlete Steering Committee will be successful because…

“…we worked extremely hard to put together and implement an Athlete’s Commission that represents all athletes by making sure our voices are heard.”


How has the postponement of the Paralympic Games affected you as an athlete?

“Well, I was planning on going back to full time teaching and getting married after the Paralympics in 2020, however the postponement has allowed us to slow down and just enjoy the small moments before life goes back to being crazy. I’ve used the postponement to work on my mindset and continue my postgraduate studies.”


How would you describe your style of play?

“I’m a 1.0 thinking I’m a 4.0! Nah, I just like to go out on court to work hard and have fun!”


Has anyone specifically influenced you to play the way you do?

“I’ve looked up to and watched Clare Nott and Jitske Visser play for most of my career, and I like to emulate the way they play. They are both incredibly intelligent and skilful, so I like to think that they have influenced me in the style that I play.”


What piece of advice has stuck with you throughout your career?

“Have fun. I always make sure that I’m having fun and enjoying what I’m doing!”


If you could do a training session with three other players from anywhere in the world male or female to improve your skills, which players would you choose and why?

“Jitske Visser from the Netherlands, Rose Hollermann from the USA and Joy Haizelden from GB. These women are extremely skilful and have a wealth of knowledge. All of these women play the game the right way and challenge themselves to be their best, so I’d love to pick their brains, learn from them and then try and incorporate what I’ve learnt from them into my game.”


Thanks for your time Ella!


Rollt. would like to thank Ella Sabljak for the interview!


Ella Sabljak Profile:

Date of Birth: 17/10/1991 (aged 28)

Hometown: Werribee, Victoria

Started playing: 2008

Australia senior debut: 2013 Osaka Cup – Osaka, Japan

Classification: 1.0

Disability: Charcot Marie Tooth Type 2

Current Club: Queensland Cornets, AUS (2012-Present)

Former Clubs: Dandenong Rangers, AUS (2008-12)

Career Highlights:

_2011 U25 World Championships – St. Catharine’s, Canada – Silver

_2013 Osaka Cup – Osaka, Japan

_2015 U25 World Championships – Beijing, China – Silver

_2015 Asia Oceania Championships – Chiba, Japan – Silver

_2017 Asia Oceania Championships – Beijing, China – Silver

_2018 World Championships – Hamburg, Germany – 9th

_2019 Asia Oceania Championships – Pattaya, Thailand – Silver


Interview: Dylan Cummings | Photo: Steffie Wunderl

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