S.C. USATF Master Official Olympic Trials 2012 journal

S.C. USATF Master Official Norman Venyah gives an inside look of his experience serving at the Olympic Trials. 

Submitted by:
Norman Venyah
S.C. USATF Master Official

S.C. USATF website and official contact information for future officials

File photographs

Thursday, June 21

I made it to the airport in time to catch a 7:20 flight to Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. From Chicago I flew to San Francisco. I was already cutting it close for a 6 p.m. meeting but now the plane from San Francisco to Eugene was delayed. My original 5 p.m. arrival time was now pushed back to 6:15 p.mm. Not good, since the officials meeting was at 6 p.m. and the ride from airport is 30 minutes. I called my head official to explain the delay and that I would catch up with them as soon as I could. As soon as the plane landed I got my bags and found the shuttle service to the University of Oregon campus. It was about 7pm when I arrived at Carson Hall on campus. Carson Hall would be my home for the next ten days.  I went to the building next door to get my room keys, meal card, and a map of the campus. I got to the dorm room and dropped off my bags. As far as dorm rooms go it was small but very clean with a carpeted floor. I never made the meeting because when I called my lead again to ask if things were still going on but there was no answer. That meant they were in the dinner portion of the meeting or still in discussion. I left a message for a return call so I wouldn’t waste time hunting for the meeting location near the track only to find out I was too late. It was now about 7:15 but 10:15 back in South Carolina. I had a full day and got some food at the café in the building next to the dorm. I was also too late to get my credentials so I would have to get it early tomorrow at the Autzen stadium where the Oregon Ducks play football. My head official called me at 9:30 and said they were finished. I missed it all, but she agreed to fill me in at 9 a.m. tomorrow in the lobby. I have been up since 5 a.m. and tired and frustrated because of how the day ended. The moral of the story is, when going to important meetings whether in town or not give yourself enough time to get there early and relax. Give yourself enough time to counter Murphy’s Law so it doesn’t ruin your plans. 

Friday, June 22

There is a three hour time difference from South Carolina to Oregon. I got up at 7 a.m. Oregon time (10 a.m. in South Carolina) and had breakfast in the dorm café where all our meals would be if we weren’t at the track. I took a 20 minute walk to Auzten Stadium. There, I got my credentials, rule book, three shirts, windbreaker, cap, and NIKE shoes. I returned to the dorm and called my head official and we met for a review of the information I had missed at the meeting. I came to the trials confident about my horizontal officiating skills for every position of the jumps. But after reading the instructions for each position in the long jump and triple jump I noticed that they would be handled with a few twists. The take-off board has plasticine on it so that the imprint of a foul can be seen. When plasticine is used if there is no mark there is no foul. Cameras and microphones were positioned a couple feet from the take-off board for playback in case of a protest. Measurement of jumps are determined by a laser that uses a calculation in a triangulation method to determine the athlete’s jumping distance. We are instructed to stay seated as much as possible and not bring attention to ourselves. I was the first recorder for the men’s decathlon long jump event. I was the timer for the men’s long jump qualifier. With two crews and two flights in the qualifying event both flights started at the same time on different pits. Athletes took their three jumps and then the best 12 from both flights have the finals on Sunday. I noticed that the University of South Carolina had an athlete competing in the men’s long jump. It rained all day and it was about 60 degrees. Not what I was expecting for a summer meet. With little chance of lightning we just kept competing in the light rain. We ended the day with a meeting of how things went at each position. 

Saturday, June 23

There was only one event for my crew today, the women’s Triple Jump qualifier. Both crews met at 10:30am to discuss the plan for the day. Plasticine boards were prepared for the event. We ate lunch around 11:30 and then had to report back to the track at 1pm. Now here was the tease. At 12 noon I walk back to the dorm and change into my uniform preparing for cold and wet weather again since it had been overcast and drizzling. I put on layers of clothes and had a poncho in hand. We prepare for the event in a warm-up area under the stadium seats until 2 p.m. and then we march out to the pits. Warm ups begin at 2:20 for the athletes and the event starts at 3:20 p.m. There were clear skies and sunshine for the first time since I arrived, but right around 3 p.m. the dark clouds blew over the stadium and by start time the rain was falling and the temperature dropped. This was bad for me and worse for the athletes. The athletes did what they had to do to get their best performances. I was the second recorder today which made me the back up to the first recorder for all the athlete’s marks and also responsible to step on the track and indicate to the flight recorder if the qualifying “A” standard was made by an athlete. If the “A” standard is made I step on the runway and raise my card with a large letter “Q” on it and the flight coordinator acknowledges by displaying his identical “Q” card. The flight coordinator makes sure that the athlete does not jump again. No one made the “A” standard in triple jump today. Everything went well on both pits. Tomorrow I will attend a clinic on preparing placticine boards just so I have the skill if I work a meet where placticine is used. Except for the outdoor championships, the professional competitions, and a few of the bigger college relays in the country placticine is not used at meets. We ended the day with a meeting of how things went at each position. 

Sunday, June 24

I attended the 9 a.m. clinic on the preparation and care of placticine boards. The clinic was very informative and included a hands on opportunity with the placticine, the tools, and the boards. From about 10-11am a few of us prepared two boards for our 3 p.m. men’s long jump final. I will be the first recorder for that event. The morning started off clear with 58 degrees. When we were on the track it drizzled for about 15 min. I checked the extended forecast to prepare myself.  The forecast indicated partly cloudy until 7 p.m.. Maybe we will have a dry competition today. I decided to take a chance with shorts. The crew met from 12:45– 1:45. I helped prepare a backup board. We marched out at 2 p.m. As first recorder, I worked closely with the palm pilot tech who was responsible for entering correct marks with the correct athlete to be displayed on the performance boards which are seen by fans in the stands and on TV. This being the men’s long jump final, I was required to determine the eight finalists from the 12 qualifiers after the preliminary jumps and then determine the order of the top eight at the end of the finals. I verified my marks with the palm pilot technician after each round to be sure we had identical marks for each athlete. At the end of competition we had an independent verification of the finalists and the correct order of finish. Top three finishers go to London if they have the “A” standard mark. Things went very well.  We ended the day with a meeting of how things went at each position.

Monday, June 25

I volunteered to work with the other crew so I will go with them at 4:45 to complete the women’s triple jump finals. I volunteered to be a broomer. A broomer is similar to a raker but only brooms are used to keep the pit level and smooth. The event started at 5:45 and yes, there was a light rain. About 45 min. into the competition the rain stopped and I was able to work freely once I took off my poncho. Three of us kept the pit smooth with speed and efficiency. By the time the reading was locked in with the laser and transferred to the palm pilot tech’s computer we had the pit ready except for where the marker for the laser was positioned and the footprints of the marking official. Things went well. We ended the day with a meeting of how things went at each position.  

Tuesday, June 26

Our first off day. I traveled with a few officials to visit Florence, Oregon. We enjoyed a wild rollercoaster type ride in a seven-seater dune buggy on sand dunes. The ride lasted about 30 min. and was quite a thrill. Even with my hood on and goggles there was sand to be shaken off and spit out after the ride. From there we rode along the coast to a sea lion cave. The cave was advertised as America’s largest sea lion cave. After that we went to King Estates Winery just outside of Eugene for a tour of their wine making process. It was an overcast day but dry. We got back to the dorm and cleaned up to attend an appreciation dinner provided by the USATF national office. There was a thank you speech to the officials by USATF President Stephanie Hightower. That ended a nice day. 

Wednesday, June 27

Our second off day. A few of us left for Beaverton, OR to shop at the NIKE employee’s store and use our coupons for 50% off on the items there. Who do I see but one of my favorite athletes of all time, Jackie Joyner-Kersee. I had to speak. This was not the first time I had met her but I had to reintroduce myself as she had surely forgotten me. We chatted briefly in the shoe aisle as we pushed shopping carts down the aisle. About 15 years earlier she came to Columbia representing the Heart and Lung Association who sponsored the Governor’s Cup road race. My daughter got an autograph and took pictures with her. She is one of the greatest athletes of all time, a true competitor, and a gracious person. That made my visit, in addition to the 50% off on shoes and clothing. After shopping we stopped for lunch and then headed for higher altitude along highway 5 South then to highway 126 East for a scenic drive along the McKenzie and Blue Rivers. This was some beautiful area. We ended up driving to an altitude of 3000ft to view the Three Sisters Mountain Ranges. This opportunity was a treat for me. This was the farthest Northwest I had ever been and a big contrast to the big city lights and sightseeing that I usually enjoy. 

Thursday 6/28

Today’s event is the men’s triple jump qualifier. Each crew had one flight of 12 or 13 athletes. The best 12 from both groups combined would compete later in the open event. I operated the wind gauge today. I had the task of monitoring the wind direction before competition to be sure that we jumped in the pits with the wind at the athletes’ backs. From 2:30-3:10 I took five second wind readings every minute to track the wind direction. The field referee used this information to make a decision on the jumping direction for the athletes. Once the referee made his decision I was allowed to stop taking readings. The wind gauge was set up to start remotely when the palm pilot operator started it from his computer. All I had to do was record the reading for each athlete.  The event started at 4:30pm. One athlete achieved the qualifying mark on his first jump and was not allowed to jump again. All went well during the competition. Unfortunately, I was fooled by the clear skies and sunshine at 1:30 p.m. By 2:30 p.m. it was overcast and cool and too late for me to get my long pants and jacket. It even drizzled for about 30 min. during competition, but I had my poncho and weather writer clipboard to protect my paperwork. Better to have clothes to take off than not have enough and be uncomfortable. I will be ready tomorrow. One problem is that we are not allowed to take any personal bags out to the field because it looks untidy on TV. We ended the day with a meeting of how things went at each position.

Friday, June 29

One event today, that is the women’s long jump qualifier. I worked the flight coordinator position. However, there were a few twists to my normal duties. I had to go to the holding area and introduce myself to the athletes and then walk them out to the venue. The briefing was short and sweet as all the basic instructions were left out for these experienced jumpers. Everyone got two white makers for the runway. Athletes could write their name on the markers but I had to tell an athlete that she could not put her bright pink tape on top for better visibility. Everyone would have the same advantage or disadvantage on the runway by using identical markers. When an athlete jumped I had to record the time and not just a check mark by their name. We had three athletes make the automatic qualifying mark. I had ample clothes on today and after a little drizzle I ended up peeling off layers down to my track shirt. Crazy, unpredictable weather. I escorted athletes back to the holding area after the event. We ended the day with a meeting of how things went at each position.  

Saturday, June 30

Two events today. First was the women’s heptathlon long jump and then the men’s triple jump final. I was the pit judge for the women. I gave the signal to the board judge when the athlete had properly left the pit. Measurements were made with the laser and not a tape measure and I used the receptor pole to mark the athlete’s landing point in the sand and then held it there until the laser operator indicated that he had the receptor locked in for a reading. I also indicated to the board judge when the pit was ready for the next jumper. It was an overcast and dry day. I was the timer for the men’s competition. I used a timer that was about 3 feet long and 8 inches high perched on a tripod about two feet off the ground. This was set up in front of the jumper just off to the side of the runway so the athlete could see the sixty second countdown for their attempt. I sat off to the side and started the timer remotely when the flight coordinator stepped off the runway and then reset it for the next jumper once the athlete made their attempt. I heard a little trash talking among two athletes, which surprised me, since up till now I had only heard encouragement between jumpers in my years of officiating. An official quickly talked to the two athletes and put an end to the comments. Turns out there was some bad blood between the two from earlier competitions. We had light rain before it was over. We ended the day with a meeting of how things went at each position.

Sunday, July 1 

My crew had the day off but I volunteered to broom the pit for the other crew during the women’s long jump final. There were three of us brooming the pit and we did a great job of working quickly and keeping the pit level. We ended the day with a meeting of how things went at each position.  

Monday, July 2

Time to go home. We caught a shuttle early to the airport. I had a few extra items from the freebies and souvenirs purchased to take home. I took some pictures throughout the ten days to hold the memories. As I entered the security check point I saw Tyson Gay. I spoke briefly and asked for his autograph. He signed my officials credential badge. I can put that with all the lapel pins and other keepsakes of the Trials. I didn’t see much of the Trials while on the track because I was so focused on my duties, but we saw highlights on TV at night. All in all, it was a great experience.  Good meals, friendly officials from all over the country, and an opportunity to learn a few things at a higher level of competition. 

Submitted by:

Norman Venyah

SC USATF Master Official