Ivan Novkovic: Wheelchair Champion of Serbia. ~ Boris Vidakovic {Interview.}

On February 16, 1978, Ivan Novkovic entered the world with Spina Bifida and has been in a wheelchair ever since.

Born in Paracin, Serbia, after several years his family moved to a bigger town, Nis, in southeastern Serbia. In 1991, at the age of 12, he played his first game of pool. From that moment on, pool became inseparable from his life. Now he is one of the best Serbian wheelchair pool players, a national champion and has attended several European Championships.

I found Ivan in his local Nis pool club, Atlantis, playing some 9-ball. By the sound of the balls falling in the pockets, he just completed a stroke. Ivan interrupted his practice and to talk with me for Sneaky Pete Mafia.

BV: Can you describe your first encounter with the pool?

IN: My first encounter with billiards occurred when I was twelve years old, when I played a game with friends from middle school. Ever since, I have been tempted by this sport’s long games. Given that the pool has continued to be a very important part of my life in the last 22 years, my early interest was not just a child’s enthusiasm. I played pool every day for the first two years (at the ages of 12 and 13).

I had believed that it was impossible to hit a ball with a cue from in a wheelchair. I have spent many days in finding ways to achieve this, and discovered some fun positions just for kicks. Eventually, positioning myself at a billiards table became a routine. I have learned the proper ratio of my body, a table, and a cue, and am trying to learn and use best practices in this field and, at the same, listen to coaches that work with me.

BV: How did you learn information about the wheelchair billiard tournaments, including the world championship?

IN: As a teenager, I had a strong desire to accomplish something big and prove myself within our society, so I chose pool as a vehicle to do that. I have found a great deal of information about billiards on the internet. Much of this information came from the United States and European websites. Based on this information, in 2002, my colleagues and I established the Serbian Wheelchair Billiards League, which is supported by the Serbian Billiards Federation. This task was not too difficult for me given that I have been an activist for people with disabilities since 1998. I am proud of taking part in establishing the Serbian Wheelchair Billiards League because this accomplishment is not only very important to people with disabilities, but also to the entire Serbian society and the issues of inclusion and tolerance.

BV: How long did it take before your first success?