Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

She'll be the judge of that

City woman makes Olympic history

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Nieva Embuldeniya began judging amateur boxing as a volunteer in 1986 as a favour to her husband.

The Winnipeg woman had never boxed and only became interested in the sport after meeting Herb, a native Sri Lankan who boxed at the college level in his home country.

More than 20 years later, she found herself at the 2012 London Olympic Games, judging the first-ever women's boxing tournament.

"It was just such an honour to be there, especially being the first time the women were competing at that level. I really just feel so grateful to have gone," said Embuldeniya, a retired lab technologist.

This Olympic-sized achievement is just the latest addition to her trailblazing career.

After starting in 1986, she qualified as an International Boxing Association continental judge in 1998 and a world judge in 2003. She also served for four years as an executive committee member for the association from 2006 until 2010.

Embuldeniya became the first woman jury member for boxing, having been appointed at the 2004 Women's World Boxing Championship in Russia.

In 2008, she became the first female technical delegate to the Women's World Boxing Championship in Ningbo, China.

"I've been lucky. I've had a lot of opportunities and I really fell in love with the sport. And I have the best teacher in my husband," she said.

Although it was her first time judging at the Olympic level, she is a veteran visitor of the Games. Her husband served as a boxing jury member in five Olympic Games: Barcelona, Atlanta, Sydney, Athens and Beijing. She accompanied him to each one.

Embuldeniya said she found out she'd be jurying her first Olympics in April.

"I was surprised and excited. I couldn't believe it," she said.

During her trip across the pond, Embuldeniya got to attend the opening and closing ceremonies and judged some of what she calls the highest level of boxing she has ever seen.

In addition to meeting some of the world's finest athletes, she saw the Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton.

"She looked just like she does on the covers of magazines, very beautiful," Embuldeniya said.

The highlight was seeing history made when Nicola Adams of Great Britain won the first-ever Olympic gold medal for women's boxing. She was boxing in the flyweight category and Embuldeniya judged the match.

"It was a thrilling moment. I felt proud for women. I felt like we were inspiring others," she said.

And after more than 20 years judging the sport and one Olympics under her belt, Embuldeniya has still not boxed herself. When asked if she has any plans to try it out, she just laughs.

"I'm too old. I'm happy to watch."

katherine.dow@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 17, 2012 A11

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