Quebec’s Marzieh Hakimara is the Canadian Official at the Tokyo Olympic Games. She is the highest-ranking female official in Canada.  The International Table Tennis Federation and the Olympic Committee selects only the best in the world of which Marzieh is a member of that elite group. 

Follow Marzieh and her Olympic story with us. 

I started my journey to Tokyo on July 20th from Montreal airport to Vancouver and then to Tokyo. We had to have two negative RT-PCR test within 72 and 96 hours to be allowed to board. In the Vancouver airport there were many people from other countries heading Tokyo for Olympic games as well. I could not believe they did not let a guy get the board just because his test had been done 15 minutes earlier than 72 hours.

In the Tokyo airport there were too many volunteers helping the Olympic organizers. Although everything was organized, everyone was in the airport between 5 to 7 hours. The next two days most of the time we had meeting with the referee and we had practice sessions to become familiar with new equipment.

First day

First day of tournament every team of umpires had 4 matches, 2 matches as umpire and 2 matches as assistant umpire. In the call area players first must meet umpires and then should be checked by Rule 50 station (advertisement restrictions for Olympic games). The first- and second-day Mixed double and singles were played.

Third day

On the third day (round 3) the matches were closer with the stronger players. I really enjoyed being the umpire of match between Harimoto from Japan and Lam from Hong Kong. Good news is ZHANG Mo defeated her opponent and advanced to the next round.

Fourth Day

On the fourth day I had 3 matches, the most exiting match was between Koki Niwa (JPN) and Yang Wang (SLV). Wang was a chopper, Niwa won the match and very beautiful rallies were played.

My other match in quarterfinal was between k.Ishikawa (JPN, rank 5) and M.Yu (SGP, rank 26). Surprisingly Ishikawa lost 1:4. She is one of the most popular players in Japan and one of the best players in the world.

Fifth Day

On the fifth day I also worked in Rule 50 station for a session. Players, coaches, and team’s physicians are checked for advertisement restrictions. Everything should be checked, clothes towel, rackets, racket’s cover, water buttle, socks, shoes, headband, wristband and bags.

Another thing that happened was that Mima Ito (JPN, rank 2) lost her match to Chen Meng (CHN, rank 1) in the semifinals. Thus, no Japanese player reached the final. She later won bronze medal in singles.

We are staying in Sunroute Plaza Shinjuku Hotel. We are not sharing the room with the others. (The only positive result of pandemic.)

This Olympic Games is different from the other Olympics in the past. We experience things that umpires in the previous Olympics did not, and unfortunately, they experienced things that we do not. I wished I could visit the beautiful, clean, and neat city. The hotel and venue are the only places we are allowed to go.

There is 13 hours and half time difference. The first few days I had Jet lag. I am trying to be concentrated. Umpires are human and may make a mistake, but we have a huge responsibility. Players have made dreams to play in the Olympic games and achieve the best result, they have made a lot of efforts during last 4(5) years to succeed, and to me it makes this tournament different from the others. “There is no place to mistake”.

The presentation is so important for organizers as well (sometimes more important than everything else), so we must have a very nice performance in umpiring and the presentation.

Day 9

Today was the ninth day of Olympic Games and the team match was started. My first match was between China and Egypt Men’s team. I really enjoy seeing every point count for the players, whether their opponent is much stronger or weaker than themselves.

10h Day 

Today I was the umpire of an exciting women team match between Germany and Korea. It seemed that both teams would have a tough competition. From the first day of the competition every team was accepting to change their shirt if both teams had the same color. I had to toss coins twice for the shirt and the bench selection in the call area. I realized that we would have a tough match ahead and I must be very careful. The match was so close, it took about four hours and finally Germany won by 3-2.

Any last words for us from your experience at the Tokyo Olympic Games?

I can not say that I learned something special in umpiring in the games, but I believe we can learn from every moment in each tournament. I always try watching the games again and again to see the others and myself performance to improve my action. What I experienced and don’t want to try again was that the players most of the time were looking for someone to share their happiness and success in such a credible competition but unfortunately, they couldn’t find anyone because of the pandemic restrictions. I could feel how difficult was the situation for them.