Pictured: Trish Gubb (Umpire), New Zealand. Photo Credit: Badminton Photo
BWF Certificated Umpire, Trish Gubb (from New Zealand) will be attending her second Olympic Games and her first Paralympic Games as an umpire in Tokyo.
Testament to her growth and experience as an umpire, Trish is one of only two umpires who will be umpiring at both the Olympic and Paralympic Games. As this is the first time Para badminton will be included in the Paralympics programme, it will be a new experience for Trish.
She recounts her past experiences, highlights and what she is most looking forward to at the upcoming events.
Listen to what Trish has to say about her upcoming Olympic and Paralympic experiences in this Q+A:
This is your second Olympic Games…can you tell us about your experience and what your highlights were?
Rio was my first Olympic Games and I was so thrilled to be appointed. Multisport events are always exciting as there are so many different sports happening, there is always something to do and people and meet whenever you are not actually working.
The badminton highlight for me was umpiring the Mixed Doubles semi-final between a Chinese pair and a Malaysian pair. The Chinese were the favourites, yet the Malaysian prevailed in a close fought 3 game match. There were wonderful rallies, an amazing atmosphere and very good sportsmanship shown on court. I will never forget umpiring that match.
Away from Badminton, my highlight was following Lydia Ko through her second round on the Golf Course and getting her to autograph a golf ball at the end. – I had no idea how much fun golf could be as a spectator sport.
You are an experienced umpire – can you give us a snapshot of the highest level of tournaments you have umpired at?
I have worked at all the major tournaments over the years and enjoyed them all: World Tour Finals, Thomas and Uber Cup Finals, Sudirman Cup Finals, World Championships which is replaced by the Olympics once every 4 years.
Are there any notable differences between being an umpire at the Olympics in comparison to other major events such as the World Championships?
The Olympics, unlike the World Champs, starts off as a round robin. Alongside the fact of it being a multisport event and the Opening ceremony having just happened does provide for a different atmosphere for a first day or so. Then things do get very tense – the Olympics is once every four years, which adds extra strain and determination to the players. If their campaign is not successful as they hope, it is a long time before another chance comes around – if it ever does.
What was your initial reactions after receiving a letter of position at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games?
I was surprised but very pleased to receive my second Olympic appointment. Normally a BWF umpire would only work at one Olympics over their career and I never expect to get a second appointment so soon, if at all. But as I have loved visiting Tokyo in the past and it is Japan is a country so strong in support of badminton, I am very excited to be going.
My appointment to the Paralympics came somewhat later and I was just was excited, I immediately began to make plans to say in Japan in my time between the two events. Covid-19 has complicated things (to put it mildly) but this is still my plan.
This is obviously your first Paralympic Games? What are you most excited about umpiring at the Paralympics?
Para Badminton events have a different atmosphere to other tournaments. While still competitive, there is also an atmosphere or camaraderie – almost us against the world, rather than us against each other. It is a wonderful environment to work in. It is also very challenging, with different court layouts for various events and differing considerations for the players. It keeps the mind working hard! (And I have notes in my pocket to help me at the end of some very long days.)
As you can move from Wheelchair Doubles to Standing Classes and back again, you need to be alert to exactly what you are doing at all times – the different outside lines can make a big difference to the play. I am looking forward to working with a team of line judges at the Para Badminton as at some of the Oceania tournaments we have only had so many volunteers to go around. I have regretted needing to play a let because the shuttles landing sport have been blocked by a wheelchair.
How do you feel about being appointed both?
I am honoured to be attending both games. When I started umpiring, Para Badminton at the Paralympics was unheard of, so attending the Paralympics is a more recent ambition. But I have been telling people for years, I would happily umpire badminton for a living, if only someone would pay me to do it! BWF has started doing just that and I have been appointed along with 6 others as the first semi-professional Badminton Umpires (Covid-19 complications mean I have not worked much since.) While it is not enough either time or money wise to be my only employment, I hope the opportunities will grow. It may never be a full-time profession during my career (as umpires must retire from the international level at 55), it is a wonderful beginning!
Sometimes conﬂicts occur between the player and the umpire. How do you personally cope with/solve these unexpected problems and reduce the tension in the moment?
Remaining calm, logical and unbiased is the key to getting through such situations. Umpires must remember that no matter how much tension or pressure we are feeling, the player will be feeling more.
I am always willing to explain my decision to the players as long as it does not delay the game unduly – the game is for the players, so they have the right to know the ‘why’ of a decision. The official vocabulary that all technical officials should use (and players should know even if English is not their first language) helps enormously and it has been expanded in recent years.
Are there any interesting facts about umpiring that the ‘average joe’ might not know?
When we go to other sporting events – we spend just as much time watching the officials and trying to understand their various roles. It differs so much from sport to sport!