LONDON – A Barbadian is among the world-rated umpires officiating at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Kelvin Martin, 49, is one of only four umpires certified by the Badminton World Federation (BWF) in the pan-American region and the only one from the Caribbean.
Former Barbados player Gloria Chung is also at the Games working as a line judge.
NATIONSPORT caught up with Martin during his down time at the Wembley Arena. He had already done four games as an umpire in the high chair and four more as a judge.
“I probably had an idea that it would have happened because there are only three umpires who are more senior to me in the whole region, so it goes also on merit as well as seniority. For the Olympic Games, only the certified umpires are selected for duty. The accredited umpires are not selected,” he said.
Not demonstrative by nature, he was still very pleased when he heard the news.
“I felt good to know that I would be given the opportunity to officiate at what is considered to be the highest level because I would have officiated in all other tournaments which are considered to be the crème-de-la crème of the tournaments on the calendar of the BWF.
“I think that just like for the athletes, for the officials, officiating at the Olympics Games would be the last jewel in the crown.”
An architectural technologist by profession, Martin has officiated at the Pan Am Games, Pan Am Championships, Commonwealth Games, World Championships, Thomas Cup, Uber Cup and Sudirman Cup.
He has travelled extensively to umpire and is grateful to his wife Ann, especially in the early days, when children Shae, a junior national champion, and Shantal, were much younger.
Martin was introduced to the sport by a former workmate Martin Ying back in 1984. He joined Pioneers Badminton Club, where he was a long-standing president and also served on the executive of the Barbados Badminton Association for 12 straight years, though he was “never bold enough to take on the presidency”.
After officiating at home, the opportunity came in 1996 to attend an umpires’ clinic in Guatemala, with assistance from the Barbados Olympic Association. It was there he gained his pan-American accreditation.
Paisan Rangsikitpho, the current vice president of the BWF, was a presenter, and he encouraged Martin to stick with it.
It takes about three years to move from one level to the next. In 2000, Martin attained his Pan American certification at the area championships in Cuba. The following year, he was assessed at the joint World Championships/Sudirman Cup in Seville, Spain and earned his BWF accreditation.
At the 2005 World Championships in Anaheim, California, Martin became a fully certified umpire, eligible to officiate at the highest level of competition.
“The maintenance of the level is one of the areas where I am challenged. I am expected to officiate in ten tournaments and to do 100 matches each year. Only one of those can be done locally, as a national tournament, which means finding my way out of Barbados to officiate,” Martin explained.
As a result, he takes holiday around the time tournaments are being held, because he is not self-employed.
There is also an assessment panel that provides feedback to the umpires to ensure they are maintaining the expected standard. Martin said there were clinics at tournaments to ensure there was one interpretation of the rules.
This means that the standard of officiating doesn’t change regardless of whether the tournament is being played in the Americas, Asia, Europe or Oceana.
The noise was deafening in the arena and with three matches playing side by side, Martin said staying focused on the game was part of the training.
At home, he shares his skills and knowledge with local umpires and is conscious of the role he has to play in their development.
“Because of my contacts with the international and pan-American body, I am constantly looking for opportunities to open the door for somebody else to follow in my footsteps because we do have to retire from international duties at age 55,” Martin said.