|Athletics Canada recently spoke with Jane Edstrom and Alice Kubek; two Canadian officials who officiated at the 2013 IAAF World Championship in Athletics and the IPC Athletics World Championship.
Athletics Canada (AC) – Was this your first international experience at an event of this caliber? If not, what other international events have you been a part of?
Jane Edstrom (JE) – This was not my first international experience at an event of this caliber, I have also attended the following:
- Pan Am Games, Guadalajara, 2011
- World Junior Championship, Moncton, 2011
- Youth Olympic Games, Singapore, 2010
- World Junior Championship, Bydgoszcz, 2008
- World Championship, Osaka, 2007
I have also had the good fortune of attending a number of IAAF Diamond League meetings as technical delegate.
Alice Kubek (AK) – This was my first time at a World IPC Championship. I also just returned from the IWAS (International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports Federation) World Wheelchair Championships in The Netherlands.
I have been to many IAAF Championships including:
- World Championship, Daegu, 2011
- World Junior Championship, Moncton, 2010 (Track Referee)
- Commonwealth Games, Delhi, 2010
- World Junior Championship, Beijing, 2006
- Commonwealth Games, Melbourne, 2006
- World Championship, Helsinki, 2005
- World Junior Championship, Kingston, 2002
- World Championship, Edmonton, 2001 (Track Referee)
I am also involved at this level with the World Masters Association being an ITO (International Technical Official) in 2010 (Kamloops, BC, Canada – indoor event), 2010 (Sacramento, USA), 2012 (Jyvaskyla, Finland – indoor event), and I will be going to Porto Alegre, Brazil next month.
AC – How was this experience different from others that you have officiated?
JE – This was the first location that I had to apply for a visa. It was an extensive process that the staff at Athletics Canada was instrumental in assisting me with. I am not sure that I would have completed the process without their assistance!!
There was a language barrier with the local officials. As in Japan, the ITOs had to take an increased role in assisting with communication with the athletes. The national officials of Moscow were very competent technically, but the language was definitely a barrier. The stadium, equipment and facilities were excellent.
AK – This event was completely different for me as it was all Paralympic athletes.
AC – What would you attribute too the greatest performance or feeling you witnessed during the 2013 Championship?
JE – There is no doubt that it is a treat to experience the athletic ability of Mr. Bolt. He really can sprint!! The crowd in Moscow loved him and he knows how to perform. He is a positive ambassador for Athletics.
My proudest moment was watching Dylan Armstrong compete in the 2013 men’s shot put final. I had the good fortune of being assigned the men’s shot final, so I was right in the middle of it all. It was a fantastic event with some very good performances. Dylan came to throw and earned a bronze medal. He is a true competitor and gentleman.
AK – It was wonderful to see how these athletes have overcome handicaps and are competing at such an elite level. My proudest moments were being able to hear and sing my National anthem so many times!
AC – How were you involved in the 2013 Championship? Do you try to keep to the same roles and responsibilities between events?
JE – I was one of the 10 ITOs assigned to the Championship in Moscow by the IAAF. Each session of each day the ITOs are assigned to oversee each and every event that is on the schedule. The ITOs are rotated around during a championship, so we see all of the events during the days we are there. As an ITO we do not specialize, but whatever event or location we are assigned to, our role is to oversee, support the referee and ensure the technical rules are not compromised.
AK – I was an ITO. There is a Chief ITO who assigns our events and we cover all of them. It works this way at all meets where there are ITOs.
Our function is to make sure that the Rules are being followed. We are supervisors at each event we are assigned to. At the end of the field events that we are assigned to we check the results and sign the results sheet. For the horizontal jumps we usually place ourselves so we can see the take-off board. For vertical jumps we place ourselves where we can see the plane of the crossbar. For the throws we place ourselves so we can see if there is a foot fault on the throw. We record all of the attempts so that we can confirm that the result sheet is correct.
AC – As an official you are a volunteer, why do you keep giving your time for Athletics, what keeps you involved in the sport?
JE – The People are definitely the reason I stay involved in the sport. During my tenure as a Canadian official, I have met people and now have friends across Canada, who all give freely of their time and expertise to Athletics. As an ITO, my circle of friends has now expanded to circle the world. I am a physical educator by profession so by nature I volunteer expertise, time and value sport. I have a passion for sport and sport officiating. The sport of Athletics is like a seven ring circus with the oval and running/walking forming a frame for the throwing and jumping that occurs on the infield. I have met some amazing people both athletes, officials and volunteers in my experiences in the field or around the track.
AK – Yes, all officials are volunteers. I keep giving my time as I enjoy seeing the athletes achieve what they do, and because I enjoy people and I always meet new ones at each event in addition to seeing "old" friends again. I also competed both in swimming and athletics when I was young and enjoy giving back.
AC – What process / steps do you need to go through to become an official at these international events?
JE – Basically you have to live in the country that is hosting the event. The majority of the officials come from the local that is hosting. The IAAF appoints 10 ITOs to the major events along with an International starter, photo finish person and a walks panel.
Each discipline has its own upgrading process, which varies from country to country. I am very proud to be an official from Canada. Our officials are respected around the world. We have an extensive upgrading system that produces quality officials. The upgrading system is supported by various clinics and a strong mentoring program. Once an official has moved through the upgrading system to become an international referee, the IAAF offers a week long clinic followed by a written exam and oral interview to become an Area Technical Official (limit of 3 per country). To become an ITO, there is further written examinations and oral interviews. ITO’s must re-certify every four years.
AK – You have to reach quite a high level of officiating within Canada, then go through the National and Area processes before hopefully being able to attain the ITO. The ITO process is a closed book exam, oral exam, and is done every four years.
AC – What has been the highlight to date of your officiating career?
JE – I would have to say that becoming an ITO has been a high-life. It has allowed me to broaden my knowledge of all the events involved in Athletics. The sport of Athletics is so simple yet so complex. It is just running, jumping and throwing, but within that realm there are two horizontal jumps, two vertical jumps, four throws, endless races at a multitude of distances, relays and let’s not forget about the walks!!! I have been forced to dabble in it all and have met some amazing people along the way.
AK – All of the meets, local, provincial, national, and international have highlights but it is wonderful to hear your national anthem.
AC – For anyone contemplating getting involved in athletics as an official what advice or encouragement would you share? How would they make the first step to becoming an official?
JE – Stop contemplating and get involved. All you have to do is come out to an event and we will get you oriented and involved. You get to witness first hand some amazing performances, meet new people and enjoy the great outdoors. For those of us who suffer through a long, cold winter, the competitions move indoors and the enjoyment of comradery and performance shortens the cold season. You first step in becoming an official is to contact your provincial athletics organization and inquire when the next meet or event occurs – SEE YOU THERE!!!
AK – The first step is to find a club in your area and contact them. For advice I would say you should have a good sense of humour, enjoy people, and hopefully want to make a difference in helping the athletes.
AC – What are some of the biggest challenges you have witnessed as a national/international official?
JE – Communication is probably one of the biggest challenges. If two people speak the same language, life is good. If there is a language barrier, it just complicates the situation. Situations do not get solved as efficiently when interpreters have to be involved. It is just one more hurdle to overcome. Sometimes people speak the same language and there are still issues with communication. Dealing with people in the proper fashion in the proper situation is key.
I have been very fortunate in my career as an official. Some would say that I have given a lot, but I have to say that I have received so very much since the first day that I was spectating a shot competition and someone put a tape measure in my hand. I have worked with many excellent officials along the way and have had the benefit of quality mentors who continue to hone my skills as an official. The journey of learning never ends.
AK – Most of the challenges have been going to countries where the language was different (not always the interpreters that are promised). Some countries do not want us there and were not always cooperative. In a few cases the countries did not like dealing with a female with authority!
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