When Paula Parks was told last August that she’d been selected as a field hockey judge for the London Olympics, she wondered how long her elation would last.
"I was absolutely ecstatic," said the River Heights resident. "I said to somebody that I didn’t know if one can stay on Cloud 9 for a year, but I can try."
As it turns out, the excitement has only increased for Parks as the opening ceremony for her first Olympic Games has drawn closer. The longtime field hockey official has traveled to all corners of the world since her first international appointment took her to Kuala Lumpur in 1998, but usually it’s to an event that few Winnipeggers have heard of.
"I’ll say I’m going to the Champions Trophy or the South American championships and everybody says, ‘That’s nice,’" Parks said. "It’s a totally different scenario when you’re able to say I’m going to the Olympics.
"Part of the joy is sharing the news. People get so excited for you, and that’s really been part of the fun."
As a technical official, Parks will be responsible for making sure rules and regulations are followed on the field of play. She’ll be one of six judges in London. With two judges working every game in both men’s and women’s play, she’ll have a busy schedule for the duration of the Games.
"There are going to be a lot of games," she said, noting that the field hockey competition will take place in Riverbank Arena at Olympic Park, home to seven other venues including the Olympic Stadium and the Aquatics Centre.
"I’m hopeful I’ll get to take a look (at some other events). I’ve been given a ticket to the opening ceremony and a ticket to the closing ceremony."
Parks considers herself part of the legacy of the 1999 Pan Am Games. After playing at a high level for more than a decade — including a two-year stint on the national team that took her to the 1978 World Cup — she briefly coached at the University of Manitoba and eventually ended up as an official on the local and national scene.
When Winnipeg was awarded the Pan Ams, the organizers wanted someone local to become an international official and Parks was the choice.
Since 1998, when she hasn’t been at her day job as a research technician in the U of M’s department of plant science, she’s been travelling the globe to major international competitions. Parks has worked three Commonwealth Games, one Pan Am Games and an indoor World Cup. After her trip to London, the outdoor World Cup will be the only major event she has yet to be appointed to.
"A multi-sport event is so different," she said. "The World Cup for every sport is the pinnacle, and I haven’t been appointed to that yet. I hope that happens, but the Olympics are really up there. If you only ever do one Olympics, you still did an Olympics."