Bulatovic ends a career full of unforgettable moments
Montenegrin handball legend Katarina Bulatovic has decided to end her illustrious career, deciding to uphold the decision she originally announced at the beginning of last season, despite offers to stay for another season.
The 35-year-old right back speaks to Nemanja Savic about her decision to step away from the court and the biggest moments in an illustrious career
eurohandball.com: You have just recently completed preparations with Gyor to continue the season. What was the main reason behind your decision to uphold your retirement plans?
Katarina Bulatovic: I owe a lot of gratitude to Csaba Bartha and people at Györ. I wanted to wait and see if I can have another shot at the Champions League. However, I already had plans for the future and it was too much for me to wait another year.
My idea was always to retire on the court. But I also wanted it to mean something. I had a few more years to give, but I believe players should retire in their prime. I always gave my maximum and the fans deserve nothing but the best from me.
It may be disappointing to leave like this, but you have to understand that health comes first and respect that decisions are made for our safety.
eurohandball.com: Speaking of plans, do you already know how your life is going to look like without handball?
Katarina Bulatovic: The last few days, I always have a feeling I am late for something. It will be a very different feeling, but I am looking forward to the next stage.
The situation is not ideal for making any long-term plans, but I am going day by day. I want to dedicate to family and become a mother. I am also a few exams away from completing my master’s degree, so that is my focus at this point.
I am not going to actively remain in handball, I just do not see it. But I will still be a number one fan. I will be watching as many games as I can and I am feeling thrilled by it, so this is only a goodbye from the court.
eurohandball.com: What are you looking forward the most in retirement, and what will you miss from your playing days?
Katarina Bulatovic: I am looking forward to family life and enjoying handball from a fan’s perspective. Just the other day I said to myself: “Now I can finally go to the FINAL4 in Cologne.” – that has been my dream for a while, but I could never find the time.
I will miss sharing all those great moments on the court. It is a special feeling. With the new format, the Women’s EHF Champions League is becoming better and better, and I am sorry I will not be a part of it next season.
But I will be among the fans. I am already looking to visit Györ next season for some Champions League action.
eurohandball.com: You have won the EHF Champions League an amazing four times, among other trophies, including EHF EURO 2012. What was the best and dearest moment of your career?
Katarina Bulatovic: The best moment is also the one that hurt the most. It took me years to realise what playing in the Olympic Games final means. We got the silver medal and I was disappointed since we came so close, but as the years went by, the feeling of being there and having come all the way has outshined many other moments in my career.
The whole year of 2012 was unforgettable. First, we have a disappointing end to 2011 at the World Championship, and then we manage to win the Champions League in front of our fans in Podgorica. We never expected it, we just believed and did all we could. Our fans were amazing and Moraca venue was full when we lifted the trophy – I cannot forget that feeling.
Then it all culminates with our EHF EURO 2012 victory and a first women’s handball national team trophy for Montenegro. An amazing year.
eurohandball.com: Are there any young players you consider your heir at the right back position? Also, who were your idols growing up?
Katarina Bulatovic: When I look back at what we did at the age of 23 or 24, I feel the youngsters today still have a lot to learn at this point. There is talent, for sure. For example, the young Valeriia Maslova from Buducnost can have a great future ahead of her.
But from the more senior players, I will say I admire Anna Vyakhireva. She is still young, and even better than I was. A special talent, that caries her team and the kind of player that can turn things around all by herself.
I admire what Ana Gros is doing, too. She has been very consistent for some time, and I only see her getting better. Stine Oftedal too, she can become one of the greats.
I always looked up to the likes of Anja Freser and Grit Jurack on my position. As I watched a lot of men’s handball too, I always liked Olafur Stefansson and was a fan of that whole Iceland team.
However, my biggest idol is Bojana Popovic. She is just something special. The kind of leader and presence that makes everyone around her play better.
eurohandball.com: Throughout your career, you have had a special relationship with the fans. Since this is your farewell story, do you have any message to them?
Katarina Bulatovic: I am very proud that anywhere I played, the fans recognised who I am as a person. I felt their love, support and respect throughout. I am grateful to the fans for supporting me and making me the player I was.
Even now, deciding to retire, I still think of the fans and what they mean to me, how important they are to the game.
I always felt the fans were pushing me to do more, and I demanded more from myself in return. They play a huge part in all the success I had, and I am happy I was able to repay their faith by always giving 100% on the court.