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British Athletics young officials leading the way in London

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Heather Nelson

12 April 2017

Two of the UK’s top young technical officials have secured appointments at this year’s World Para Athletics Championships and IAAF World Championships London 2017 taking place in the London Stadium at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park this summer.   

Aged just 19, India Hollingworth will be one of the youngest in the team. She is set to be a starter’s assistant on the track during the IAAF World Championships London 2017 and, prior to this, a call-room assistant at the World Para Athletics Championships. She will be joined by Heather Nelson, who will be one of the chief judges in the field events at both championships. 

Hollingworth, a student at Leeds Beckett University where she is studying sports development, is delighted at the prospect of officiating at London 2017.

She said: “I am looking forward to being part of it. I am excited and nervous at the same time! I have been gradually progressing through the levels by gaining experience and taking the tests. These involve a lot of scenarios to show you can apply what you have learnt to the roles. For example, I was asked to show where I would stand for the 100m start.” 

As a starter’s assistant she will be responsible for checking the athletes are in the correct order and have their fingers or toes behind the start line and ensuring appropriate conduct on the start line, including checking that the athletes are appropriately dressed.  

She said: “My dream event would be the men’s 100m final but I would also love to do the 5000 or 10,000m. Just being there will be amazing.”

During the World Para Athletics Championships, Hollingworth will be in the call room ensuring the athletes are ready at the correct time and wearing the right clothing. She will also be responsible for making sure they do not take anything onto the field of play that is not allowed, such as mobile telephones, and will carry out branding and sponsorship checks.

Although only 35, Heather Nelson already has 19 years’ experience as a technical official having qualified at the age of just 16, but these events will be her first as a chief judge. 

Nelson, an engineer who is currently studying for a DPhil at Oxford University, was introduced to athletics at a young age as both of her parents are technical officials. Both parents still officiate, and both Heather and her mother, Margaret, were technical officials at London 2012.

She commented: “I enjoy the events and officiating. It is like having a second family and we make many friends – there is a real community feeling. The people and the performances make it really special. I have been lucky to have officiated at many memorable events. I was judging at the take-off board for Jessica Ennis-Hill’s long jump during London 2012.” 

Nelson was an assistant chief judge for the pole vault at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014. She has also officiated at the European Team Championships in Gateshead in 2013 and the European Para Athletics Championships in Swansea in 2014.  Her aspirations to be appointed as a National Technical Official were fuelled by her experience of volunteering at the Commonwealth Games in 2002. 

She added: “Looking back on previous international meetings hosted in the UK, I view London 2017 as a massive opportunity to engage once again with the great spirit that was evident throughout the events of London in 2012 and in Glasgow in 2014 which goes further than just sport. It really lifts the country and it is great to be involved.”

Paula Gowing, UK Athletics Technical Officials Manager, said: “I am delighted to see two of our young officials being offered roles at this summer’s championships. It is testament to our policy of training and encouraging our young officials and providing them with appropriate experience to go on and gain these key roles in major championships.” 

Some 250 officials will be involved in London 2017 as 3,300 world-class athletes from more than 200 countries come together to compete in 30 sessions across 20 jam-packed and action-fuelled days as both the World Para Athletics Championships (14-23 July) and the IAAF World Championships London 2017 (4-13 August) are hosted in the same city in the same summer.

If you want to find out more about how to get involved in officiating in athletics, please visit the website: http://www.britishathletics.org.uk/competitions/officials/