We couldn't help but notice the recent spike in ESPN.com searches for Biba Golic, ever since the sexy Serb appeared in a new ESPN commercial. For many folks, the ad provided their first glimpse of the table-tennis temptress -- and it was probably love at first sight. But we at Page 2 have to say we told you so! Way back in 2005.
Have a newfound interest in table tennis? I wonder why.
While we and Biba go way back, we thought this would be a good time to re-introduce you rooks to the paddle-wielding woman who is single-handedly spicing up the world of whiff-waff. (Don't say we never did anything for you.) Meet the best thing to happen to a ping pong table since red plastic Solo cups.
Mary Buckheit: So, just to be clear right off the top, before folks click away, you are of no relation to ESPN's Mike Golic, right?
Biba Golic: Nope, I've never even met him.
It must just be the name. Although you are also more masculine than Greeny. Explain that one.
Well, you know, I really don't know who they are. Maybe I'll meet them when I visit ESPN in Connecticut next week. I would like that. I know that your Bill Simmons was at the commercial set in L.A., but he was gone before we shot my segment so I didn't see him either. I'm looking forward to my visit to ESPN, it will be fun.
You were on ESPN's Hottest Female Athlete poll four years ago. How often do people mention that? Seriously, we think we deserve some credit here.
CHAT WITH BIBA GOLICInterested in chatting with Biba Golic? She'll be on the ESPN campus Tuesday, and taking your questions at noon ET.
Oh my gosh, it's really funny to me. But exciting, too. I really appreciate it. People all the time tell me, 'We saw you, you were in the first section of ESPN's Hot List!' And I don't really know anything about it or what that is, but that's what people tell me. And the hottest athlete poll -- I couldn't believe that people would make a list and that more people would actually go on and vote for somebody that they think is the hottest. I was so surprised that people have that kind of interest.
Yes, we are those people.
I know. It's funny, the attention that you give to athletes. It's exciting though, I enjoy it. It makes you feel good, and I guess it's flattering. I don't want to be pretentious, but yes, people do say that kind of thing a lot. That kind of sticks with me all the time.
Who would you put on the hottest athlete list?
To tell you the truth, I have no idea. I agree, there's a tennis player from Serbia [Jelena Dokic], she's already there on your list. Other than that, I don't know. I'm not that familiar with sports, actually. I like to watch tennis and basketball, but I don't really spend that much time involved in sports. It's all sort of new to me.
You were born and raised in Senta, Serbia [formerly Yugoslavia], and only came to the U.S. about five years ago. What made you take the leap?
Before I came here I was playing in Germany, and a lot of my friends were actually stationed in Texas. They instructed me that there was a university there that gave table tennis scholarships, and the team was looking for a player. I thought that was fun and interesting, and basically, that's how I got here. I got accepted by Texas Wesleyan University. Killerspin -- that's the table tennis company -- was sponsoring me, and the university gave me a full scholarship. So I came here to study and play table tennis.
A small school in Texas must have been quite an adjustment.
Yes, it was a huge transition. It was really culture shock for me. In the beginning it was really hard. Moving to another continent is a big change, and basically I didn't know anybody. I had everything arranged, but I didn't know my coach or anyone at the university. Plus my English was not good at all. I learned German in school, so I was not speaking easily [here] and I had to struggle with that. It was all very exciting and I enjoyed it, but it wasn't easy. The university has basically the most successful collegiate table tennis team in the United States. The college championship is called the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association (NCTTA), and they have team events, co-ed and women's, single, double and mixed-double events. The first year I was there at Texas Wesleyan, I actually won all five titles and I was the most valuable player. That was a big success for me and I'm very proud of that. That was a big accomplishment.
What's the big tournament title professional table tennis players aim for?
Well, the big one -- and it's the next big one for me -- is the U.S. Open in July. There are other smaller tournaments leading up to that, but that's the big one.
USA Table Tennis
Golic earned some extra attention when she appeared on Page 2 in 2005.
How much cash can you win if you take home the U.S. Open table tennis title?
Umm, you can win like $5,000.
That's not that much.
No, no it's not. If you want to make a living you can do it, but you need to play in a lot of tournaments and win and also do promotions and exhibitions and things.
And how much does a top-of-the-line pro ping pong paddle run these days?
What? What's the difference between that and the $10 two-pack I can buy at CVS?
Well, the biggest difference is that the average paddles are pre-assembled. And those are just a piece of wood -- the most ordinary wood -- with low-quality rubbers, and some don't even have sponge. The tips are slow. They're not sticky. Professional paddles have carbon in them, and about 5-7 layers of wood. Then we glue sheets of rubber on. Professional racquets are very fast and powerful.
And expensive! I read somewhere that table tennis started in England, and was played with a chiseled cork for a ball and the lids to cigar boxes as paddles.
There's a thing called "hard bat" that's played with just pieces of wood, no sponge.
That's more my price range.
But it's funny that in the United States, everybody has a table in their house.
Didn't you have a table growing up?
No, I learned when I was about 9 years old from my dad. He would bring paddles and balls to the house for me and my sister, but we never had a table. In Serbia, you go to the club to play. I still don't have a table in my house, I don't think I would like that. That's too much table tennis. I play every single day, but not in my house. Here, everybody is always talking about the ping pong table in their basement! (Laughing) It's such a recreational thing. You have tables in your bars. It is a social sport, it brings people around and together, but it's really different everywhere else. It's an Olympic sport that's very competitive in other countries, and it's played by real athletes who work out and practice, you know? But it's not really taken seriously in the States.
We take our beer pong pretty seriously, though. Have you ever given that a go?
Jean Baptiste Lacroix/Getty Images
Why would she stoop to playing beer poing? That's for amateurs like us.
Ha ha! You know, I never actually heard about it back home. But here, I remember once I was in California, I was invited out there by a group to join them and play in a tournament. And afterwards there was a little party and the tables were still out, and I saw them take glasses and fill them up with beer and they played this game! I watched what they were doing and I was laughing. I have never actually tried it, but it was very funny.
You never even wanted to try it? You didn't toss one ball?
Ha ha. No I didn't. Never. Uh oh! I'm not much of a beer person.
OK, well tell us a little bit about what you are a fan of, because you have a lot of fans who are dying to know.
Oh I don't know, normal stuff. Hanging out with friends, going to a movie, going for a run outside. I spend a lot of time outside, actually. I used to live in Hyde Park in Chicago, I liked that. I don't know what I'm into, just the ordinary stuff that ordinary people do.
Just an ordinary professional ping pong player, Biba? That's why we like you.
Oh, thank you.
OK, last question. I saved it, in case we need to let them down easy. Are you single?
Am I single? Ha ha, is that what you said? Ha. Nope, I'm not single. I'm in a relationship.
For how long?
Umm, for quite a while.
You're breaking hearts and artfully dodging my questions all at once. You table tennis pros really are quite athletic.
I told you!
Mary Buckheit is a Page 2 columnist. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.