Laurine Delforge is both a top umpire and a top player. The 26-year-old from Belgium plays club hockey in the Belgium premier league and represents her country at indoor hockey but, despite her impressive playing credentials, on the international hockey scene, Laurine is best known as one of the leading umpires of her generation.
Rio 2016 was Laurine’s first Olympic Games but she began her umpiring career nine years ago in 2008. In just four short years, she received her international badge and was umpiring top flight hockey at the 2014 World Cup in the Hague.
In Rio, she achieved the ultimate honour as she joined Michelle Joubert as one of the umpires officiating at the final.
Talking about her FIH Umpire award, Laurine is typically modest: “Winning awards is clearly not the reason why I umpire and will never be, but I am of course very pleased to see my achievements of last summer being recognised in such a way.
“My preparation leading to Rio paid off and I was lucky enough to umpire the final at my first Olympics. But umpiring is a team sport, and if I have done well in Rio, It is also because my colleagues did a great job as well. I am the one being put in the spotlight today, but many more umpires deserve a medal for their hard work and dedication behind the scenes.”
Of course, we always think about the reactions of the players during an Olympic final but, as Laurine explains, it is a very special moment for the umpires too. “The highlight of last year was without any doubt Rio 2016. My dream of being part of the Olympics became true, and I ended up umpiring the final.
“I will always remember the final whistle I gave after Hollie Webb from Great Britain scored the last shoot out in the final match vs Netherlands. Time kind of stopped for a while. I took my time to blow the whistle and truly enjoy the moment. After months of efforts and nerves, I could finally say to myself: ‘Yes, I did it’. It was a feeling of relief which is quite difficult to describe. I hope my story can inspire young players to take on umpiring and live the same . I can assure them that it is an incredible adventure!”