Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 30/3/2020 (291 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
One of the highlights of Darek Makita’s lengthy career as a table tennis umpire came when he was one of two male officials selected from an international pool to officiate at the World Grand Tour finals in Zhengzhou, China last December.
"This was definitely a pinnacle of my achievements," Makita said.
The 61-year-old Headingley resident was recently honoured by Sport Manitoba as official of the year at the organization’s annual awards. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Night of Champions awards ceremony was cancelled and the award winners were announced online on March 21.
Makita has served as president of the Manitoba Table Tennis Association for 15 years. As an elite-level international umpire, he’s also had the chance to travel around the world to officiate at international competitions including Commonwealth, Olympic and Paralympic Games. He said that being part of the 2004 Olympic Summer Games in Athens was special, since that’s where Olympic competition began.
Growing up in Poland, Makita was a competitive swimmer and came very close to being selected for the national swim team for the 1976 Montreal Summer Olympics. He didn’t make that team, but was able to take part in an Olympics as an official.
"I didn’t go through the door as an athlete, but took a window as an official," he joked.
Makita said he played table tennis recreationally and at an amateur level when he was a competitive swimmer in Poland and when he attended university in West Berlin. After moving to Winnipeg in 1984, he met a man who’d recently returned from serving as a table tennis umpire at an international competition in India. The idea of being able to travel around the world as an umpire was attractive to Makita, and he began umpire training in 1987.
"What a great opportunity to see other countries," he said.
Makita gradually moved up through the club and provincial to national umpire level, learning how to prepare for and conduct matches as well as enforce the rules set out by the International Table Tennis Federation. During this time, he officiated at provincial and national events before graduating to international matches held in U.S. cities.
In 2004, the International Table Tennis Federation implemented an elite level for umpires, similar to that of tennis. Makita fulfilled the educational requirements and passed the test to become a blue badge umpire in 2005.
"The international level of umpire allows me to be considered for selection to international championships," he explained.
Makita continues to help promote table tennis within Manitoba and said the number of active players remains fairly constant. The challenge is to find coaches willing to help at the novice level in Manitoba schools.
He’s pleased with the support that Sport Manitoba provides for table tennis players in the areas of nutrition and health.
The Manitoba Table Tennis Association also works with the Manitoba Badminton Association to jointly hold racquet sport camps.
St. Vital community correspondent
Andrea Geary is a community correspondent for St. Vital and was once the community journalist for The Headliner.