The U19 International in Voiron in September last year was my first international tournament since starting umpiring.
Given the current climate surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic, I was at first anxious to be travelling with such restrictions and uncertainties surrounding international travel, particularly with the difficulties I faced finding flights to and from Lyon (Thanks Doug!). However, with the many positive accounts shared by fellow umpires on their international experiences at various events, I was keen to make this trip happen and in hindsight I am glad I did!
My flight from Heathrow was smooth and upon landing in Lyon airport, I was hastily collected from the nearby train station alongside a small group of players and their coaches and transported in a small shuttle arranged by the tournament organisers. Following the 45-minute drive which was mostly filled with beautiful sceneries of the gradually changing mountainous terrain as we travelled further away from Lyon and into the foothill of the Alpes. We arrived at the Tremplin Sport Formation, a small sports complex located on the outskirts of Voiron, a historic village situated on the foothills of the Alpes.
After speaking to the Florian (tournament organiser), I checked into my shared room, which I shared with a French umpire, dropped off my luggage and grabbed dinner, before attending the officials briefing later that evening, where I was greeted by umpires from France, Switzerland and Netherlands, with me being the only English umpire at the event and tournament referee (John Op Het Veld). Post briefing we made our way back to our dorms after which we attended our first “technical meeting” of the week.
The next morning on the first day of the tournament, all officials convened in the sports hall which repurposed into a 5-court arena for this event. Considering the present Covid-19 restrictions and climate there were many international players in attendance. Strict Covid-19 protocols were always adhered to with restriction on hand shaking and requirement of masks whilst not in the umpire’s chair. Similarly, spectator numbers were lower than the capacity provided. Overall, the event was well organised, with welcoming staff and a good selection of freshly prepared foods on site. I very much enjoyed being able to experience working in a different environment alongside umpires from various backgrounds and experiences. In particular, strong team ethos was necessary for the first two days of the event which were long and tiring. In typical fashion our evenings consisted of technical meetings, which this time were spent at a local bar, that came with a DJ and live-football matches being broadcasted on the giant screen behind his deck. Furthermore, as required by law I was required to take a Covid test before return and to book a Day 2 test before departing France, which I needed to take after arriving in the UK. As the tournament progressed, we were required to not only umpire but also service judge and the semi-finals and finals also had line judges. I was selected to service judge in the women’s single final which was a battle which saw Tasnim Mir (India) claim victory over Emilie Drouin (France).
As the event came to an end on Sunday, many officials and the fewer players remaining embarked on their onward journeys either to another event on the junior circuit or home. I was fortunate to stay an extra day (due to a lack of returning flights) which I took to my advantage to explore the town centre, cathedral and local scenery. On the Monday morning I was taken by shuttle to Lyon airport from where I took my flight home.
I would like to thank the tournament organiser (Florian) and his team for organising a well-run event that catered to the needs of all participants. I am also indebted to the BUAofE for this selection.