Two of Australia’s finest Technical Officials (TO) have packed their bags for Tokyo after being selected by FINA to officiate at the Olympic Games.
With over 15 years of experience each, Western Australia’s Jacqui McNamara (York Swimming Club) and Ryan Arblaster (Breakers WA Swimming Club) will represent Australia on the pool deck at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre working alongside FINA’s best TOs from around the world.
McNamara said she had to read over her selection email several times for it to “sink in” when she found out she would be officiating her maiden Olympic Games.
“It's a big, big honour,” McNamara said. “It's been a good journey [and] a long journey to get to Tokyo and I feel very privileged and very honoured to be a part of it. And I get quite emotional thinking about it.”
Both McNamara and Arblaster put their names forward for consideration by FINA before officially being selected for Tokyo early last year.
“When I first found out, it was pretty amazing,” she added.
“I received the email, I actually had just woken up, grabbed my phone and I had to read the email three times just for it to sink in.”
McNamara’s adventure as a TO began 15 years ago, officiating at her local WA club where her children swam.
Now the regional coordinator of the state’s Great Southern Region, she has since been awarded a life membership from Swimming WA as well as becoming the state’s TO of the year in 2019.
“My children both stopped swimming [at York Swimming Club] when they hit high school and I just carried on and spent many, many hours walking up and down and pool decks and looking after my little club in WA,” she said.
“National meets I really enjoy because it's the elite, but I also really enjoy working at our club level. We don't have swimmers that make state teams or anything like that. We're a country club, so we're only open five months of the year.
“We've got a really, really nice bond [amongst all the national] TOs. You can have the guys in Sydney or wherever all around the world. We often just check in on each other to make sure we're all doing okay. Over the years, the culture with the TOs has changed. We're more of a close knit bunch.”
McNamara will be joined alongside Arblaster who recently received his gold pin for 20 years of service as a TO.
Arblaster is packing his bags for his third consecutive Games. However, this will be his first Olympic appointment as a Referee.
“I'm a qualified Referee, but any roll around pool deck I'm happy to do,” Arblaster said.
“The Referee is the one that blows the whistle at the start of every race and they have control over all the officials around pool deck. So just making sure that the race is run correctly. If there's any infractions they report it to the Referee and the Referee signs off on that.
“It's amazing to be honest. This actually will be my third Olympics, but the first time where I'll be the Referee for the [Games]; so I'm really excited.
“I still can't believe it some days and just can't wait to get there.”
The qualified TO has plenty of experience officiating at many different levels. In the past three years, he has served roles overseas at the 2018 Summer Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires and Argentina as well as the 2019 FINA Swimming World Championships in Gwangju, South Korea.
“I love every single level of competition,” Arblaster added.
“It's just really rewarding seeing the swimmers do so well and knowing that the small role that I do contributes to that.
“We do play a small part. Obviously the swimmer is the big part. But yeah, officials are essential to the running of a competition.”
After wanting to become an elite swimmer when he was younger, Arblaster’s transition into a TO and the experience he’s gained has taken him to holding a spot on both the FINA Technical Swimming Committee as well as the Swimming Australia Technical Official Committee.
“I wanted to be an Olympic swimmer and I never managed to get there as a swimmer,” he said.
“And I thought, how can I still stay involved in swimming and contribute to the sport that I really love?
“The fact that I can still stay involved, even though I don't swim anymore. If you are really into swimming and want to be involved, officiating is a great way to do that.
“I’d just really like to thank Swimming Australia for all the support they’ve provided over the years. It has been a long journey for me to be able to go to Tokyo and they've supported me the whole way, so I really do appreciate that.”