Hockey umpire Lim to officiate at Rio Olympics
Hockey umpire becomes first Singaporean to officiate at the Games since 1972
It was a freak accident that first saw him swop his hockey stick for a whistle, and that dislocated elbow suffered some 10 years ago has set Lim Hong Zhen on a path to Singapore hockey history.
Come August, in Rio de Janeiro, the 30-year-old will be the first Singaporean umpire to officiate at the Olympics since John Martens at the Munich Games in 1972.
Lim will be joined at the Rio Games by Singapore Hockey Federation (SHF) assistant general secretary, Lillian Chee - who will officiate as a judge in the women's competition - and SHF president Mathavan Devadas, who will be involved in his fourth Games, as an assistant technical delegate.
Lim is currently on duty at the Champions Trophy in London, where he has already umpired three games, including the opening fixture of the tournament which saw Germany draw 3-3 with India.
Speaking to The New Paper, Lim said: "I'm absolutely delighted.
"I had already set my sights on training for the 2020 Olympics, but now this is a reality. So it's time to ramp up the preparation so I will get (to Rio) sharp, fit and on top of my game."
He related the story of how a dislocated elbow suffered on a school trip saw him sidelined for three months, and got him on the path to umpiring.
"After one month, I got really bored and started to go for national (training) sessions to pick balls, lay cones and run with the team - just to keep myself fit," said Lim, who was then an Under-21 international.
"One day there was a friendly between the senior team and us, the juniors. The coach threw me a whistle and the rest is history."
Lim credits the former head of SHF's umpire's committee, Stephanie Martens-Hodges, for his rise as an umpire.
Martens-Hodges is the daughter of the last Singaporean to umpire at the Olympics, John Martens.
"I must really give her a special mention - I remember those hours she spent with us to whip us into shape. Part of my success is really down to her trust, belief, and most importantly, her encouragement," said Lim.
The 30-year-old dreams of umpiring at the Hockey World Cup in the future.
"I really want to thank my wife, who does not always understand, but is forever 100 per cent supportive of my umpiring. And also my parents and in-laws who always make special arrangements when I am away (umpiring)," said the father of a two-year-old girl, who still plays for Tannibellies Hockey Club.
SHF president Mathavan was delighted at Lim's appointment.
He said: "This is something we're very pleased about.
"We saw the potential in him very early on.
"While some umpires reduce the time they commit to umpiring, Hong Zhen didn't, he really stuck with it.
"A small country can develop technical officials who are able to perform at the highest levels, and as I always remind those in the sport, there are many ways to get to the top level of the game."