Ilona Korstin - The Face Behind The Campaign

06 February 2006

By Jon Ingram

Ilona Korstin’s first reaction to being asked by FIBA Europe to front the Year of Women’s Basketball was one of shock.

“First of all I was surprised and after very happy because it is an honour to represent women’s basketball,” she told fibaeurope.com.

To fans of women’s basketball throughout the world, her nomination should be no surprise at all.

Well educated (she speaks four languages fluently), Korstin is thoughtful, cultured and passionate about the sport she represents.

It is an honour to represent women’s basketball,
Ilona Korstin

When it comes to the game itself, Korstin has done it all.

At just 25 years old, she is captain of the top side in Europe, 2005 EuroLeague Women champions BC Volgaburmash Samara. With the Russian national team she has three EuroBasket Women medals to her name, as well as a World Championship silver and Olympic bronze.

Having completed most of her on-court goals, Korstin has now been offered a different challenge as the public face of FIBA Europe’s Year of Women’s Basketball.

For many basketball players, promoting the sport is little more than a secondary thought. After all, isn’t going out and playing in front of a television and live audience more than enough in giving the fans their fill of the game they love?

For Korstin, who admittedly represents a game which is nowhere near as popular as its male counterpart, promoting women’s basketball is a very real issue and something she has seriously thought about.

“I think it’s a great idea to have this year of women’s ball. I also think that we need to show more women’s basketball on television and we need to speak more in the media,” she says.

I know for example in Russia the national team last year either won all our competitions or were in the top three. In Russia we talk a little bit about the women’s team, but every day you can see men’s basketball on television.”

One of the main goals of the year of women’s basketball is to expose young girls to the game and encourage them to get involved.

“I’m really interested in promoting women s basketball because I think it is a really interesting and attractive game and if we show more on television, more people, more young girls will play basketball,” says Korstin.

It’s better to play basketball rather than to go in the streets and do I don’t know what, so for parents it is security because they know where their child is.”

How to increase the popularity of women’s basketball is not a new topic in the international basketball community. Many suggestions have been made over the years, from lowering the baskets so the players can dunk to introducing women’s volleyball style uniforms.

The only thing all of these suggestions have in common is that they are usually followed by heated debate, with the subject of focusing on the physical attributes of the players usually number one on the list of contentious issues.

“Not all players are top models and I think if they play with special uniforms they will think more about how they are looking than about the game,” says Korstin.

I have spoken to a lot of players and I don’t think they are ready to play like that.”

It is clear that it will take more than a glimpse of skin or a flash of thigh to popularise women’s basketball. More than anything, a clear plan of action is needed and perhaps more importantly, the participation of the entire basketball community.

“I think that the clubs and federations should help and everybody should work together (in promoting the women’s game),” says Korstin.

If it’s only the club or players or FIBA, it’s not enough. Everyone should move in the same direction together.”


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