If you are going to receive something gold in colour, there can surely be no better place than at the Olympic Games. This is as true for the officials as it is for the athletes, with six fantastic umpires all being awarded their own glittering prize in recognition of their wonderful dedication to our sport.
In normal, non-covid times, the Golden Whistle is presented to an umpire on their 100th international match, deserved acknowledgement for volunteers who show relentless commitment and passion to make a vitally important contribution to hockey. Due to travel issues surrounding the global pandemic, several umpires who reached the iconic 100-match milestone over the previous 12 months were not able to receive their Golden Whistles.
Tokyo 2020 proved to be the perfect place to finally pay tribute not only to those who had reached the landmark prior to the Olympic Games, but also to the umpires who were fortunate enough to umpire their 100th international match at the global showpiece in Japan.
On Friday 6 August 2021 – the day of the women’s medal matches - FIH President Dr Narinder Dhruv Batra presented all six Golden Whistles at a special ceremony, where, witnessed by all of the competition officials as well as FIH Executive Board members and staff present in Tokyo, he gave the umpires a richly deserved show of appreciation for their remarkable achievements.
The four umpires who reached their Golden Whistle matches prior to the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 were New Zealand’s David Tomlinson, Hong Zhen Lim of Singapore, Coen van Bunge of the Netherlands and Argentina’s Carolina de la Fuente, who was actually receiving her second Golden Whistle having reached the incredible milestone of 200 international matches.
These four were joined in the 100 club by Germany’s Michi Meister and Marcin Grochal of Poland, who both umpired their Golden Whistle matches at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. Michi’s milestone match came in the Women’s Pool B encounter between Spain and China on 29 July 2021, three days after Marcin’s 100th game, the Great Britain versus Canada Men's Pool B contest.
In a video interview with FIH, Michi Meister and Marcin Grochal both expressed their delight at reaching their milestone matches at Tokyo 2020. “Everyone wants to reach 100 international matches, but to reach it at the biggest event you can go to was just so special”, said Michi, who officiated the women’s bronze medal match between Great Britain and India. “I felt very privileged and honoured. It was nearly overwhelming, but I enjoyed every single second of the match. It was the best place to reach that milestone.”
Echoing Michi’s words, Marcin – who umpired the men’s gold medal match alongside Dutchman Coen van Bunge – said: “It is a really special accomplishment, like joining a club of very accomplished umpires. It is a milestone that you only realise that you are going to achieve a couple of months before, so then you cross your fingers and hope that it is going to be at the big event, so doing it in Tokyo was special, the biggest event of the last five years!”
Commenting on being presented with her Golden Whistle from the FIH President in front of all of her colleagues, Michi said: I think that was the most special part of it. To [receive] it in this environment, with the President handing it over, it made it even more special than it is already. To share it with all our colleagues and to see all the others reaching that milestone as well – it doesn’t matter if it was two weeks earlier or two months earlier – it was a very special moment and I felt very honoured.”
You can see the video interview with Michi and Marcin below.
As well as being the scene of the Golden Whistle presentation, the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 also proved to be the farewell competition for a number of these fabulous servants of the sport. Argentina’s Carolina de la Fuente brought the curtain down on a sensational international career that saw her officiate at five Olympic Games and four World Cups, while South Africa’s Michelle Joubert – who took charge of the women’s bronze medal match between India and Great Britain alongside Michi Meister – steps away with 157 matches, three Olympic Games and three World Cups under her belt.
New Zealand’s Simon Taylor’s final match came in the men’s bronze medal game between Germany and India, ending a stellar 14-year international umpiring career that saw him take to the field 170 times at numerous world level events from Olympics to World Cups and everything in between. Spain’s Francisco ‘Paco’ Vazquez and Peter Wright of South Africa also closed out their fine international umpiring careers on the world’s greatest sporting stage, with Vazquez officiating 146 times and Wright taking charge of 139 games.
The FIH would like to offer our eternal gratitude for your devotion and professionalism to our sport throughout your time as international officials, being wonderful examples for the entire hockey community. Congratulations on everything you have achieved in the game, and we wish you all the very best for the future.