Swim England

A nation swimming

'Light at the end of the tunnel' as British technical officials reconfirmed for Tokyo

The postponement of the 2020 Olympic Games brought disappointment to countless people across the globe.

While many were yet to qualify, two Swim England and British Swimming officials had already secured their tickets to Tokyo.

Helen Akers and Craig Hunter were originally confirmed as European International Technical Officials for the Games in 2019. Helen explained at the time how much she was looking forward to the ‘once-in-a-lifetime opportunity’.

FINA has now reconfirmed both officials for the rescheduled Games this summer – and the pair explain how getting the good news felt like ‘a small light at the end of a long tunnel’.

Helen said: “Obviously, whilst completely understanding the reasons for it, I was disappointed that the Olympics didn’t take place in 2020.

“My initial feeling upon learning that the Games had been postponed was actually relief because complete cancellation had started to look like a distinct possibility.

“Although we had been told that there was no intention to change the appointments, it was reassuring to be asked to re-book my flights last month.

“At the time it was a small light at the end of a long tunnel, and although there still seems to be a lot of uncertainty around the Games, I am just hoping that they can go ahead in some format.”

At the time of her original appointment, Helen said: “I’ve always wanted to officiate at an Olympic Games but it is something that you absolutely can’t guarantee that it’s ever going to happen.”

Now, over a year later, her sentiments are: “I think that the sporting community and the world in general needs a little bit of Olympic razzmatazz to look forward to in 2021.

“I have faith that all necessary arrangements will be in place to protect those involved.”

Fulfilling a dream

Craig explains that at the time he first qualified as swimming judge in 1981, he ‘wondered if it would be possible to go to the Olympic Games as a judge or a referee’.

Four decades after he first became an official, he will fulfill that dream for a second time – after he acted as a judge at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

“I was fortunate to be appointed as a judge in Rio 2016 which was a wonderful experience,” he said. “I hoped that I would be given the opportunity to referee at a future Olympic Games.”

Craig’s reaction to hearing of the postponement was one of ‘extreme disappointment’. However, he agrees that it was the only ‘sensible’ option.

“My first thoughts were for the competitors who have been training for years to qualify and compete at the Games,” he said. “But I was not surprised as so many other events were either postponed or cancelled.

“I just hope the Games will go ahead as planned in July and I can enjoy the experience.”

He explains that throughout his officiating career, he has gained a wealth of knowledge and experience.

Craig said: “I’ve been fortunate to gain so much experience at international events, both as an official and as the British Swimming Team Manager.

“The support and mentoring from other officials during my officiating career has been amazing.”

Craig was also appointed to the FINA Technical Swimming Committee in 2017.