With the Rio 2016 Olympic Games hockey events coming to a conclusion tomorrow, two of the world's top female umpires
Rio 2016 is Fanneke Alkemade’s first Olympics and it is one that the focused Dutch woman is enjoying immensely.
“I am so proud of us all [the umpires]. This is such a great experience because every umpire here is of the highest standard. This gives you huge confidence on the pitch – if you have total confidence in your fellow umpire, then it makes it easier for you to perform well.”
That confidence is enhanced by the very structured approach that this elite team of officials takes towards the task at hand. “The preparation, both mental and physical, is done in the months leading up to the event,“ explains Alkemade. “By the time we arrived here, we were as ready as we can ever be."
The umpires arrived in Rio on the Tuesday before the competition started and every day was taken up by briefings and discussions.
One key area of focus was to minimise the time taken from video referral to decision. “Wearing microphones has meant that the video umpire hears the question as the player asks it, in the past the umpire on the pitch has had to listen to the question and then relay it up to the video umpire. This change has made it a much slicker process.”
Michelle Joubert is a veteran of Olympic Games. She is also one of the most experienced umpires on the circuit, with more than 100 international matches under her belt. Rio, she says, has a very unique atmosphere.
“Compared to previous Games we are experiencing the local culture to a far greater extent. And, with all the officials from all around the world staying together, well this is what the Games is all about, bringing people, nations and cultures together through sport.”
Alkemade agrees: “On the pitch, I am representing the multi-cultural team of umpires. Sure, I am also proud to be representing the Netherlands, and the Dutch press and public are very supportive, but when I am umpiring, I represent the team of umpires.”
All the umpires attended the Opening Ceremony, and despite her many years of experience, Joubert was still blown away by the occasion: “The Opening Ceremony carried such a beautiful message and the atmosphere around the venues is amazing. This is a place where healthy competition is really being celebrated.”
The South African joined Alkemade in paying tribute to the quality of umpiring on display. “We have all worked really hard over the past few months, there are some very talented young umpires showing real potential here. That is helped by the fact we are a great team both on and off the field. The umpire managers have worked incredibly hard to get us to this level.”
Joubert will take to the field to umpire the gold medal game between Great Britain and Netherlands. Don't miss out on any of the action by watching on TV (click here for your local broadcaster) or follow on the Rio 2016 website by clicking on the banner below: