The Italian International: Milan, December 2018.
Living as I do on the Isle of Man travelling to any competition is never easy, usually involving an overnight stay, with flights often subject to disruption [taking the sea crossing in winter is often weather dependant].
However, on this occasion I was able to secure a direct flight to London City Airport [ the 7am ‘red-eye’ flight…phew!] to catch my connecting flight to Milan Linate airport which arrived at 1pm - all in all a 6 hour from my Island outpost to central Europe isn’t bad going!
I was kindly met at Milan airport by what appeared to be a military bus which transported myself other umpires, line judges and players to our hotel on the outskirts of Milan. The hotel was basic but clean overall one of the better hotels experienced whilst on International duty. As our briefing was not until 9pm that evening I had the rest of the afternoon to explore the beautiful city of Milan with my fellow umpire from Estonia, Renna.
22 umpires attended this event representing 12 different nationalities some whom I had met before and some now newcomers to my ever-expanding badminton family. At the evening briefing we were notified that YONEX would be trialling “synthetic shuttles” at this tournament and I have been sworn to secrecy so cannot divulge any outcomes of this trial. All shuttles were accounted for and used ones had to be placed in locked boxes!!
Also new to me was the use of the fixed height service which I found made decision making really helpful with very little challenge from players.
I found the whole tournament to be further valuable experience for myself involving good quality matches, good sportsmanship and well organised.
In conjunction with this tournament a Tutors course was also being held and we were used as ‘guinea-pigs’ for their assessments.
I was given a half day off on the Thursday to further explore a very Christmassy Milan enjoying lots of local cuisine but paid the price the following day with a full day of duties [15 between 9am and 9pm out of the 26 completed in total]. Saturday saw the Quarter and Semi-finals for which I umpired the Men’s doubles QF, service judged the Men’s singles QF and umpired the Women’s doubles semi-finals, great experience again. With the finals being held on the Sunday and with a good many experienced umpires in attendance I felt lucky to be selected to service judge the Men’s doubles final which went very smoothly.
As all good things finally come to an end, I bade farewell to my badminton family old and new and hope to meet again in the future. My journey home went to plan, arriving back at my Island home at 10pm that evening ready for work the following morning!!