8 March 2017
On International Women’s Day, we celebrate Gloucester’s Linda Turner who has recently been selected as the first ever female Chair of the Technical Advisory Group at UK Athletics and will have prominent roles at both the World Para Athletics Championships and IAAF World Championships London 2017 in what should be a memorable summer of world athletics in London.
Turner, in her own words, ‘a perennial B-string making the points up club athlete’ back in the day, started officiating in athletics in 1993 and did her officials course while serving in the Royal Air Force.
As she left the sprints and hurdles behind, she turned her hand to the officiating of athletics meetings, and has risen up the ranks as one of the world’s leading officials, acting as a track referee at the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games alongside superstars such as Usain Bolt, Jessica Ennis-Hill and Jonnie Peacock.
Fast forward five years, and Linda has been given a significant role in the operation of officiating in the country, taking over the TAG group from the retiring Malcolm Rogers who has served in the role for seven years.
So, what does Turner hope to bring to the role?
“I don’t have as much experience as Malcolm so I may be asking a few more questions at the start. I’ll certainly be looking at my colleagues to assist me. I’m not the sort of person to take control – I work democratically so I will involve people as much as possible in all of the work that we do.”
Alongside this important role, Linda will be an ITO (International Track Official) managing a team of track officials at the IAAF World Championships that will be keeping an eye on the likes of Mo Farah and Laura Muir as they participate in their races.
At the World Para Athletics Championships, she is carrying out the role of one of the two Competition Directors – essentially managing what happens on both the track and in the field, so it is a job that entails making sure everything happens at the right time. They coordinate alongside the event presentation and TV to make sure everything runs smoothly and on time for the audience in the stadium and at home.
In her officiating role, Linda has enjoyed many new experiences and learned a lot of new skills. And this she says is the best part about the job.
“As an ITO, I enjoy going to meets abroad at all sorts of levels of competitions and seeing how things are done differently. One of my favourite sayings is ‘different doesn’t mean to say it is wrong’. There are several ways of doing things – just because you have always done things the same way, doesn’t mean we can’t think outside the box and do it differently.”
And this is one of things Linda will bring to the role. As a high profile female figurehead in sport, she is leading the way for women in the top jobs in the sport and inspiring many to get involved. But does she see it that way?
“Perhaps I am being modest but I didn’t think about that. Sometimes you step back and think maybe I have done well to have achieved what I have in the sport. People can see from my background that I have worked my way through the sport. Maybe I have been lucky and been in the right place at the right time. People have given me the opportunities to allow me to get to where I am. It just goes to show that it is possible if you work hard.”
One of the leading attendees of the Women in World Athletics seminars headed by British Athletics over the last four year, Turner has met a lot of inspirational women in sport and has taken great deal of confidence from them and applied the lessons into her work.
“It has been really interesting – some of the guest speakers who have attended, some women outside of athletics, who have had leading roles, have been so inspiring. It has grown in every way and it has been great to meet with women from across the world who are as passionate about athletics as I am – we can all learn from each other.”
And what would Linda say to any budding officials out there?
“Definitely go for it! You should never be daunted – I enjoy the social side of officiating. You meet some incredible people and get the opportunity to bat ideas off one another but even now, I still learn new things. But I quite enjoy passing on my knowledge to people.”
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/