by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
Selected to officiate at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games; recently Mike Meier was featured in the publication, Referee.
Meier Paddles to Rio
by Todd Korth, Associate Editor, Referee
Mike Meier has umpired a number of notable table tennis tournaments around the world, including the 2015 Toronto Parapan American Games, 2014 Tokyo World Team Table Tennis Championships, and 2010 Singapore Inaugural Youth Olympic Games.
But his assignment late last summer to Rio de
Janeiro, Brazil, for the 2016 Summer Paralympics was perhaps the most intense tournament that he has ever umpired.
“The Rio Paralympics definitely received more worldwide attention than any other tournament I’ve participated in,” said Meier of San Diego. “Because of that, I definitely felt the pressure of the world’s spotlight, the precision of the HD cameras, and the watching eyes of the spectators, coaches and even my umpire peers around the world critiquing my every move.”
Meier, 34, was the only American umpire assigned to the Rio Paralympics. A Blue Badge International Umpire through the International Table Tennis Federation, he earned the certification to be eligible to officiate at the Paralympics in June 2015.
He has been an international umpire since 2010 and an umpire through USA Table Tennis since 2005. Meier launched his officiating career at Texas Wesleyan University while completing his MBA. The school has a storied table tennis program with full-time coaching, athletic facilities and travel budget.
“In table tennis, it’s an opportunity you maybe get once in your life, if not at all,” Meier said. Meier left for Rio last Sept. 4 and returned Sept. 19. Singles events were held Sept. 8-13 and team events Sept. 14-17.
The Paralympics consisted of athletes from 175 countries who competed in 23 sports and 526 events. Table tennis showcased 275 athletes from 48 countries in individual and team events. Table tennis competitors are grouped based on their level of disability: wheelchair classes 1-5, standing classes 6-10, intellectual disability class 11.
“Riocentro Pavilion 3, where table tennis was hosted, had a capacity for 7,000 spectators,” said Meier, “and Brazilian spectators are by far the loudest I’ve ever heard. There were matches, especially when the Brazilian athletes were playing, that it felt like I was in a loud soccer stadium.”
Meier worked with umpires from all over the globe, including a few who he has teamed with in the past.
“I umpired with officials from Russia, Singapore, Japan, Egypt, as well as Brazil,” he said. Meier watched other sports as well. “I watched 8-foot-1 Iran sitting volleyball player Morteza Mehrzadselakjani, the tallest Paralympian ever, complete his story of going from outcast and hermit, to gold medalist and superstar,” Meier said.
“I’ve umpired tournaments all over the world, but after Rio, I can say my umpire career is complete,” he said.