After months of preparation, planning and a marathon 10-hour Zoom session, a number of Cape Town Table Tennis (CTT) officials sat down to take their International Umpires Examination.
Considering the whole Covid-19 situation, this was always going to be a tricky one, as a big portion of the exam involved practical aspects of the game.
The opportunity to write these exams don’t come around every day and, with all regular activities grinding to a halt in 2020 as a result of the coronavirus, taking part in this year’s edition of the exams was off the table.
However, a dogged determination to see it through and with the help of modern technology, the candidates were able to be tested online.
Ultimately, nine out of 10 candidates from clubs across the city, passed their exams, with one dropping out due to a bad internet connection, said CTT umpires convenor Genevieve Lentz, from Bonteheuwel.
Lentz, who obtained her international umpires qualification in 2006, knows all too well about the stresses of preparing for these exams. However, she is also very much aware of the rewards that come with obtaining the necessary credits to officiate at the highest level. In 2017 she became the first female table tennis referee in Africa and did duty at the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games in Beijing and London, respectively.
Since then she’s made it her mission to encourage others to follow suit.
As part of a plan to develop umpires in Cape Town, she conducted various workshops prior to the lockdown.
“Subsequently, the SA Table Tennis Board asked me to conduct level 3 and 4 umpires courses to prepare the candidates for the International Umpires exam,” she said.
Cape Town Table Tennis chairman, Junaid Baig, said the examination is conducted every two years and the candidates are endorsed by the South African Table Tennis Board (SATTB).
Baig, who is among those who successfully completed the exam, said this year’s exam was challenging in unexpected ways.
“The experience was undoubtedly different. In a Covid-19 world we had to adapt or risk being left behind. There was an added pressure. During 2018, only one individual passed the examination nationally.
“Cape Town Table Tennis saw 10 candidates prepare for the International Umpires Examinations. No mass gatherings being allowed and no flights resulted in the planned International Umpires workshops being cancelled,” Baig said.
He said the SATTB chose to conduct the workshops on a digital platform and these were held on the two Saturdays preceding the examination date.
These workshops lasted an average of eight hours.
“The journey to become an International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) International Umpire for table tennis is not a path that one chooses but rather a calling. It often involves the evolution of players into technical officials. It is by no means an easy path,” he said
“It is also noteworthy,” he said, “that four of the candidates obtained results in the 90 percentile range. Bear in mind, only 13 candidates passed nationally.”