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Ken Borland


Officials bring Olympic honour to SA hockey

Posted on August 27, 2016 by Ken

 

The national men’s and women’s teams may not have been competing on the field, but tremendous honour and respect still came out of the Olympic Games for South African hockey thanks to the outstanding efforts of their officials.

That South African umpires are at the very top of the game was confirmed by John Wright and Michelle Joubert being appointed to handle the respective men’s and women’s finals.

For Wright, it capped a stellar career as it was the fifth Olympic Games he has officiated in and the second time he has been awarded the final, on what is likely to be his last umpiring stint at the global sporting showpiece.

“I was very pleased with the way things went, the Olympic Games has been the pinnacle of my career and it was a lovely way to end off. I’m very grateful that I have been given all the opportunity I could ever have wanted,” Wright said.

“It was a wonderful experience and I’m just so grateful for all the kind words and support from back home,” Joubert said. “It was a dream come true, just so exciting and I had a perfect time in Rio with so many happy memories.”

The experienced Wright had some kind words to say about his colleague as well.

“I believe Michelle is by far the best women’s umpire in the world and she had an exceptional tournament, even though she was battling injury. It did not hamper her in the final though, where she had a 26-year-old co-umpire, and she made a 100% correct call on the penalty stroke. Michelle has really come on leaps and bounds,” Wright said.

Joubert, the International Hockey Federation’s (FIH)’s 2015 Women’s Umpire of the Year, and Wright weren’t the only South Africans to feature in an Olympic hockey final as Deon Nel was the men’s video umpire.

Behind the scenes, Sheila Brown was the women’s tournament director and Marelize de Klerk the umpires’ manager.

A former umpire herself who was ranked number one in the world and was the first woman to officiate in 200 internationals, De Klerk blew in three Olympic Games from 2000-2008 before retiring in 2011 and becoming an umpires coach and recently a manager.

Brown is a stalwart of South African hockey and a veteran technical official and leading administrator. Her appointment was one of the highest honours in hockey and an enormous responsibility as the final authority at the event.

Brown, a colonel in crime intelligence, made her international debut as a judge in 1996 and was tournament director of the All-Africa Games in 2003. Since then she has been in charge of two World Cups. Brown was the assistant tournament director at both the Beijing and London Olympic Games.

Former national captain Marsha Cox nee Marescia may no longer be active as a player, but she was in Rio de Janeiro bringing over 300 international caps worth of experience to her new roles as a member of the appeal jury and the FIH’s athletes’ commission.

“I was really excited to be part of Rio 2016. Not only to be a part of the Olympic Games, but also to experience a country which I have never been to before. The logistics around the event itself definitely were not without their challenges, however I have no doubt that it’s these experiences which adds to the memories which will last a lifetime.

“In my personal preparations for Rio, my aim was to at least get to the semi-finals. We were told by our umpire’s managers that we would all average more or less four games in the tournament. I was appointed to the very first game of the women’s competition, and by the quarterfinals stage, I was on my fourth game already. Although I was happy with my own performances up to then, I knew that there were many other great umpires within our group and that appointments could go to anyone. I was also struggling with injuries on both my feet which left me doubting my future appointments for the last days.

“Upon receiving my appointment to the semi-finals, I was obviously delighted and happy that I was one step closer to my ‘real’ dream, which was the final. I had to get my mindset right to focus only on the semi, make sure I managed my injury and make sure I gave my best performance to at least be in the running for the final day’s appointments.

“Then the final day’s appointments came out. I had so many mixed emotions which ranged from feeling ecstatic about this achievement and also what it meant for South Africa and hockey in Africa. I felt empathy and disappointment for those who didn’t achieve their own goals and in that moment really lived their emotions as if they were my own. The feeling at that stage to me was bittersweet.

“I was also delighted for my appointed co-umpire for the final, Laurine Delforge, who has shown everyone that with talent, hard work and dedication, you do not always need years of experience in order to achieve success.

“The finals – wow, what an experience, what a game and what an atmosphere to be a part of! Both Laurine and I knew it would be a tough game, but we also understood that our game plan had to be slightly different to that of any normal game. We had to manage the game in such a way that hockey, as a top-class international sport, should be advertised and that we could be a part of its success or failure. We both enjoyed the match, the experience and obviously the actual appointment to the final of Rio 2016,” Joubert added.

http://www.sahockey.co.za/tournaments/ipt-women/253-sa-hockey-officials-at-the-olympics

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