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23.02.2015, 15:24
Dreaming of becoming handball’s Michael Jordan
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RISING STARS OF 2015: After starring in the Austrian team at the World Championship 2015 while being the tournament’s youngest player, 18-year-old Nikola Bilyk has now signed a contract at German powerhouse THW Kiel
 

Dreaming of becoming handball’s Michael Jordan

If you are a young and highly talented handball player, your first name is Nikola and you sign a contract at triple EHF Champions League winners THW, one name comes to the mind of many: Nikola Karabatic.

The French superstar was 21 when he arrived at THW in 2005. Four years later he left the German side as one of the world’s best player.

However, this story is about a different Nikola. Austrian, not French. 18, not even 21. His surname is Bilyk – and on Monday he signed a three-year contract with the German champion.

Arguably he might be a bit older than now when he eventually arrives, as the latest starting date is the beginning of the 2017 season.

"Nikola currently is the biggest back court talent in the entire world," says Kiel’s coach Alfred Gislason: "I have been following him for two years and I’m looking forward to seeing Nikola doing his next steps of development at Kiel."

Bilyk, who is 1,98 metres tall and currently takes to the court for Austrian club HC Fivers Margareten, has some spectacular and exciting months behind him.

At the Men’s 20 EHF EURO 2014 on home court he became the tournament’s top scorer with 55 goals. He was furthermore awarded best centre back and Most Valuable Player of the event.

Some months before, when he was just 17, he had already celebrated his international debut in the Austrian senior team.

And head coach Patrekur Johannesson then underlined his trust in Bilyk by nominating him for the World Championship 2015 in Qatar – he ended up being the youngest of all players at the tournament.

"I wouldn’t say that I expected to receive an invitation to the Austrian squad going to Doha, but I have trained hard and put in so much time just to play handball.

"This is my life and I knew that it was possible to have a chance. So I was overjoyed to eventually be there."

Huge honour

Nikola Bilyk has the game of handball in his genes. His Ukrainian-born father Sergiy Bilyk is a handball goalkeeper and has been playing for Fivers since 1999.

Before he arrived at the Vienna-based club, Sergiy Bilyk played for a Tunisian club, the reason why Nikola was born in Tunisia. At the age of 15 the young Bilyk joined at Fivers where he will continue playing until his move to Kiel.

"First I will finish school and then I aim to reach all my goals with Fivers. I developed into the player I am at Fivers, so I want to help the club to have a successful future," Bilyk says on the occasion of the contract signing.

"It will be a huge honour to be part of one of the world’s best teams. I always had in mind that choosing the right club will be a tough decision, because as a child you want to play for teams like these. Now the door is open to go my way and be happy."

Kiel were not the only powerhouse of European handball, which was hunting after the talented player.

Also FC Barcelona were said to be among then, and their coach Xavi Pascual had an in-depth look at the Austrian during the World Championship in Qatar.

And if all works to plan, Kiel shall only be the first major stop in Bilyk’s career. "I want to become the Michael Jordan of handball. This is my biggest goal and I will do everything to become one of the best players in the world," he says.

Sharing time with his dad

Coaches and clubs had spotted Bilyk’s skills at the Men’s 20 EHF EURO in August 2014.

Although he was two years younger than most of the other players, he was the arguably the tournament’s superstar.

However, looking back at the event, his performance was not the most important.

"I had some fun playing but my focus was not on my individual performance. Instead, I tried to work very hard for the team.

"It was not just like sitting in my room and dreaming of becoming MVP or top scorer. It was about doing the best for my team and achieving a good result. These awards are a consequence of hard work and it was nice to win them all."

Before he moves to Kiel, Bilyk wants to enjoy the opportunity of still common court time together with his father: "This is great, not everybody gets this chance. It’s a good feeling to be on the same court as him."

The 44-year was the ultimate influence why Bilyk chose handball. "I was just a little kid trying different sports like football or basketball.

"A few years later, I made the decision to go to a handball training session, and it was fantastic to be there – in particular because prior to attending the session I had only seen my father playing."


The rising handball stars of 2015

Part 1: Niko Mindegia (ESP) / Pick Szeged: "I dream of playing at the next EHF EURO"

Part 2: Kentin Mahé (FRA) / HSV Hamburg: Walking proudly in his father's steps

Part 3: Sander Sagosen (NOR) / Aalborg Handball: "I want to be the best in the world"

Photos: Qatar 2015


TEXT: Björn Pazen / ts
 
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