Wednesday, July 24, 2024 | 21:36 WIB

Her remarkable journey to Paris 2024

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Qomarul Lailiah, Indonesian badminton umpire

Jakarta, IO – Despite her ordinary skills in playing badminton, Qomarul “Lia” Lailiah has soared to the pinnacle of the shuttlecock sport – the Olympics. However, she will not join the upcoming Summer Olympics Games as a player but rather as a badminton umpire. 

Having obtained international certification, Lia will serve as an umpire at the 2024 Paris Olympics. “I have also been invited to officiate as an umpire at the 2024 Paralympic Games in the same city and country. There will be a break between the Olympics and Paralympics, so I will return to Indonesia after the Olympics and come back to Paris for the Paralympic Games,” Lia explained. 

Paris 2024 will take place from July 26 to August 11, while the 2024 Paralympic Games will be held from August 28 to September 8, 2024. 

“It is a precious opportunity, and I can hardly wait for the events,” Lia said. 

Paris 2024 will not be Lia’s first experience as an umpire in the Summer Olympics. She also served at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, held in 2021. She is the only Indonesian holding the BWF Certificated Umpire status. 

In the BWF umpire structure, a certificated umpire is the highest level at which an umpire can officiate all matches held by the BWF. To become a certificated referee, an umpire must first become an accredited referee or BWF Accredited Umpire. 

An umpire receives accreditation from BWF in the form of a license to officiate badminton games at national and continental levels. After gaining experience at this level, the umpires can undergo training under their continental confederation. This process concludes with an assessment by BWF referee assessors. Only then can the accredited umpire become a BWF Certificated Umpire. 

The appointment to serve at the Olympic events is carried out by the badminton confederation body, in this case, the Asian Badminton Confederation (ABC). “So, I represent the Asian continent. I feel lucky because I was chosen to fill the quota for female umpires from Asia,” Lia said. 

Lia admitted that she is not adept at playing badminton, but she came from a badminton-lover family, especially her father. “My sister, who was born during the 1982 Thomas Cup, has Thomas in her name, even though she is a girl,” said Lia laughingly when talking about her family’s love for badminton during an interview at the 2024 Indonesia Open badminton tournament. 

Lia’s involvement in refereeing for badminton games was unintentional. Born in Surabaya on September 24, 1977, Lia became a teacher in the same city at Sawunggaling 1 Surabaya Public Elementary School. One day, her teaching colleague offered her a gig. “At first, I thought it was an offer to give private English lessons because my colleague taught at a private school. I thought it would be good to make extra money from giving lessons,” Lia recalled. However, her colleague, Bambang Wahyu, who was already more active in badminton, invited her to become a referee back in 1998. 

“At that time, I told him that I didn’t fully understand the rules of badminton. However, he assured me that everything could be learned,” Lia said. After two years of studying and working as a line judge, Lia joined referee training held by East Java Province. Three years later, Lia was offered to take the entry-level referee certification exam, National B. 

Lia then pursued higher levels, from National A Umpire, Asian Accredited Umpire, to Asian Certificated Umpire. In 2015, Lia finally became a BWF Accredited Umpire after participating in the selection and being selected as one of five Asian representatives. Two years later, Lia held the status as a BWF Certificated Umpire. 

“I studied the Law of Badminton, a book written in English. This is true science; it can be learned from direct observation and experience as long as there is the will and determination. That’s what I did when studying the badminton rules,” noted Lia. 

Lia has now officiated various matches at world-level tournaments, including the 2015 Sudirman Cup in Dongguan, China, and the same tournament in 2017 in Gold Coast, Australia, as well as officiating the 2020 Thomas and Uber Cup matches in Aarhus, Denmark. 

She also gained experience in officiating matches in multi-sport events, such as the 2011 Jakarta-Palembang SEA Games, the 2018 Jakarta-Palembang Asian Games and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. 

Lia was genuinely surprised by her achievements up until now. Initially, she only wanted to experience officiating an international badminton match. After making this dream come true, she had a higher dream to officiate matches at the Olympic level, which came true in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, although the events were postponed for a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Even though the conditions were not ideal, Lia learned many valuable lessons from this first experience. 

”The pressure was clearly different. However, I learned that referees must really maintain their focus, concentration and alertness in every match they lead. We can’t be reckless because one point is priceless for the athletes. Not to mention that they have fought hard to get tickets to the Olympics,” Lia explained. 

Read: Ida Ayu Astari Prada: A journey to discover the meaning and importance of cultural preservation

As a mother of two children, Lia admitted that balancing her duty as an umpire and as a wife and mother was not easy. “I was absent from umpire duty during pregnancy and childbirth. Sometimes, I felt mentally down when returning to officiate a match, feeling like I’m starting from zero.” 

Nonetheless, Lia is blessed with a sturdy support system. “When my children were small, my parents and in-laws were willing to take care of them when I had to work at a championship outside the city or overseas. Even the neighbors did not mind helping to look after my house. This is the blessing of living in a village,” said Lia, who lives in Wonokitri, Surabaya. 

Wishing you success serving at the Paris Olympics and Paralympics Games, Lia. (rp)

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