06 Mar 2017

Unassuming but no stranger to the big time the name of Genevieve Lentz may not be as well-known as those with whom she has shared centre stage.

Just as the likes of China’s Ding Ning and Li Xiaoxia were on duty at the London 2012 Olympic Games so was the honours graduate from the University of the Western Cape.

by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor

Notably she had been a member of the Young Umpires Project for the Singapore 2010 Olympic Games; now, she is one of two Blue Badge Umpires from South Africa, the other being Moegamed Isaaca.

Genevieve Lentz spoke to Olalekan Okusan, the ITTF Africa, Press Officer

I actually started playing table tennis early in life but most times I always ended up umpiring at league matches, I enjoyed it and therefore pursued getting myself qualified.

Besides getting to watch world class players up close and personal, I get the satisfaction that a game has been officiated to the best of my ability. I have been umpiring internationally for the past eleven years and I still get to learn and improve as an umpire. Since table tennis rules are always evolving, it’s important to be in the know and practise.

Table tennis is one of the fastest ball sports in the world, so you certainly need to keep your eye on the ball, this is exhilarating and exciting. Best part of it is that I get to officiate at the sport that I love.

An umpire should possess presence, be alert in the match and have an umpiring aura.

There’s no need to dominate the match because the match is not about the umpire. Players appreciate an umpire that is fair and one whom they can trust. Therefore, it is important for an umpire to be calm and simply apply the rules. I make sure that I am up to scratch with the rules and merely follow umpiring procedures when it comes to players misbehaving.

In the most extreme cases, I would call in the referee but I am proud to say that I have never had to call the referee for any match as yet. I also, treat every match with the same amount of focus and fairness, as I would when umpiring elite players.

It is not necessary to be a player before going into officiating in table tennis because it is not a requirement to have been a player but I do think that it sharpens your umpiring skills. This helps tremendously when you are writing the umpiring exams, you are able to understand the questions better and visualise the scenario.

It is every sportsman’s dream to reach the Olympic Games. As an official, I regarded it as the highest honour bestowed upon me to umpire on the greatest World Stage. It is definitely the reward, for years of umpiring.

As an umpire I have gained invaluable experience and growth as an umpire. I certainly umpire very differently to when I started as a novice umpire. I definitely enjoy and treasure the friendships that I have built over the years with both players and other officials.

I treat every match with the same amount of focus and fairness as I would an elite match. All players deserve the same amount of commitment from the umpire. I would like to believe that I have an umpiring presence so I don’t easily get intimidated by elite players.

My greatest moment as an umpire was umpiring the Women’s semi-final match at the London Olympics. I never thought that I’d be selected for the medal matches. In fact, I was in complete shock when I was informed that I was officiating that match.

I remember going back up to my hotel room being overwhelmed with a sea of emotions, feeling joy, pride and appreciative of my mentors throughout my umpiring career. Had someone told the 13-year old Genevieve that she would one day umpire at the Olympics, she’d probably glare with disbelief.

I think young people are not taking to umpiring because they are still playing. Players can be very intimidating and therefore you won’t find the younger umpires keen to officiate.

Older umpires have also built many friendships over the years and look forward to meeting each other at World events. The younger ones are starting to adapt the same culture.

There are definitely more young umpires in table tennis than 10 years ago. The ITTF has done well to develop young umpires to officiate at the Youth Olympics, since 2010.

General News Umpires and Referees Genevieve Lentz