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Bahrain-based badminton aficionado Jojan John became one of the first umpires in the world to officiate the sport at the Tokyo Paralympic Games, after badminton was added to the event for the first time ever this year.
The Indian expatriate, who has been in Bahrain for more than 22 years, represented Bahrain at the Games – the highlight of his quarter-century-long career as a badminton umpire.
Badminton made its Paralympic debut in Tokyo this year, and John was on the sidelines making sure every athlete followed all regulations at its first ever-set of games.
“I’m delighted to have represented Arab badminton at the Paralympic level,” the 44-year-old, who lives in Juffair and works with a contracting company in Bahrain, told GulfWeekly.
“I have been officiating for more than 25 years, of which 10 years have been spent umpiring internationally. I have been lucky to officiate at World Senior and Junior Championships, Asia Paralympic Games, Asia championships, Asia Team championships, many Badminton World Federation Grade 1 tournaments and more across the world.
“At the Olympics and Paralympics, however, they appoint only experienced BWF umpires. And it was an honour to be chosen and to represent Bahrain.”
John was the only umpire from the entire West Asian region at the Paralympics. His decade-long international umpiring experience equipped him to make extremely difficult calls, at a level where every decision can be put under the microscope.
John was first certified as a national umpire, then levelled up to officiate West Asian badminton events, Asian competitions and finally, international tournaments. Each level requires an up-to-date understanding of the rules, which is tested in theoretical and practical exams.
Only those who score 90 per cent or higher can officiate events at that respective level.
But at the end of the day, “the game is for the players,” according to John.
“We make sure they enjoy the game without being officious and maintain nuetrality on both sides,” he added.
But it’s not always rosy. Watching players get injured and be forced to retire can be heart-breaking as well.
John explained: “We feel sad when a player is injured and has to retire, which happened at the Paralympics in one of my matches. It is heart-breaking as we see all their training and experience come to naught and they cry in vain when they know they can’t proceed with the match.”
As John looks forward to officiating more international events, he also hopes to inspire more young people to take on the role.
“The BWF needs many more smart and efficient umpires,” he said.
“One needs to take the role seriously. He/she will have to be well updated with rules and regulations. Nothing is impossible when hard work pays the result!”
John lives in Juffair with his wife Mini, as well as their three children – Sachin, Steven and Sandra Maria.