To mark Earth Day (22 April), Nikola Karabatic talked to Olympics.com about the importance he places on the environment and how he has led efforts to change his sport. “As an athlete, our individual actions will inspire people, as well as our clubs, leaders and federations, to follow in the same direction”, says the triple Olympic champion.
Some athletes have no qualms about speaking out publicly about the preservation of our planet. Nikola Karabatic, three-time Olympic champion and considered by many to be the handball G.O.A.T., is one of them.
An ambassador for French NGO Fair Play for the Planet, Karabatic agreed to talk about his involvement with the movement to fight climate change, to mark Earth Day, which has been celebrated every year since 1970 on 22 April.
“These are not obligations anymore, it’s a way of living”, said the three-time IHF World Player of the Year.
It is a way of living that has had positive consequences for his entourage, club and national federation, and one that he has passed down to his children, Alek and Nora.
The 38-year-old athlete has also made fighting for the planet his top priority when he retires from sport.
Find out more in this exclusive interview with Olympics.com.
The changes Nikola Karabatic has made to his way of living
“I don’t really like to talk about adaptation, because it’s not restrictive anymore. It became my way of living.
“It all started with nutrition, which also impacts me as an athlete, with thinking about what I put on my plate, where it comes from, and trying to make sure I eat things that have less impact on the environment – because it can have a huge impact.
“Living in France, a piece of meat that comes from South America, with the way it is reared and the transport, is not the same as a piece of meat from France that is raised in a sustainable way.
“That was the first thing I became aware of and the first way I changed my habits.”
“Then came transport. I have lived in Paris for over eight years and, along with my family, choose to travel by public transport, bicycle, electric scooter or train. We are planning to move, so I will buy a car, but I’m looking for one that has less impact [on the environment].
“I also support environmental causes, and I’m pushing my club, federation and national team to change their habits in terms of the use of bottled water and plastics.
“At PSG, there are water dispensers so we can avoid using plastic bottles, and we’ve stopped using a ton of plastic.
“The French league has also created Zone Verte (Green Zone) that distributes water flasks to avoid plastic wastage. The national federation has also been impacted.”
The athlete’s role in the fight for the environment
“As an athlete, I think we can lead the transition towards a more sustainable model, more adapted to the environment surrounding us.
“Our individual actions can inspire those who watch us, as well as our clubs, our leaders and our federations, to follow in the same direction.”
Respect others to respect the environment: the values Karabatic teaches his children
“I try to teach them respect, politeness and empathy; Respect of others and our surroundings. It can arise from many things but it’s fundamental to feel empathy and grow with an evolving consciousness. That’s how I was raised.
“When we have these values, many things happen. Respect for the environment begins with respect for others.”
“Invest in our Planet”: How the Earth Day 2022 theme inspires him
“It resonates with me because the things I involved myself in over the coming years will be related to the planet. I want to invest in the planet through different actions. I’m building an endowment fund along with my brother, and I might involve myself with other funds that support companies working for ecology and the planet.
“I try to view everything I do in terms of the impact it has on the planet.”
The message of Nikola Karabatic
“I want to show my children and the people that follow me that we need to fight with hope, even if nowadays, with the COVID crisis and the war in Ukraine, there are many negative things that can discourage us.
“I think we always need to fight for what we believe in, we need to be engaged. That’s what I want to show my children: always be proud and fight for what we believe in and dream of.”