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City woman becomes first African female to be Olympic Table Tennis deputy referee

Genevieve Lentz during one of her games: Fuad Esack - Sports Editor and Journalist.

Genevieve Lentz during one of her games: Fuad Esack - Sports Editor and Journalist.

Published Jul 3, 2021

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Cape Town - Born and bred in Bonteheuwel, Genevieve Lentz is set to take the world by storm when she participates in the 2020 Olympic Games as the first African female table tennis deputy umpire this month.

Due to Covid-19 last year, the event was postponed and now Lentz is set to travel to Japan and represent the International Table Tennis Federation as a deputy umpire.

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While everything is still uncertain due to Level 4 restrictions, Lentz is still preparing herself mentally and physically for her journey.

“I am not sure how this will affect the athletes and officials who need to travel to Japan as I have a domestic flight scheduled for Johannesburg on July 20 and then off to Doha and finally to Japan.

“Nonetheless, those athletes who have been called for national duty to Tokyo will most probably be treated as special circumstances and may be exempted from the lockdown rules and be allowed to travel to wherever they need to be, to board their flight to Japan. Normally the SA Team has a direct flight to the Olympics, all the athletes and coaching officials fly along with them.

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“In my case, I do not represent SA, I represent the International Table Tennis Federation and so my travel arrangements are different.”

She said her selection to the umpiring team was done under a specific criteria which include experience in other events, performance over the years and the geographic rotation policy and roles for the current and next hosts.

Genevieve Lentz. Charlie Jay Photography

Lentz said she needs to present two negative Covid-19 tests to enter the country and has already been vaccinated.

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“Without the two negative tests, we will not be allowed entry into Japan.”

Being selected for the 2020 games is a dream come true, she said.

“This I now deem as the highest honour not only for women in table tennis but for Cape Town Table Tennis, for South Africa Table Tennis and for Africa Table Tennis.

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“It is a privilege to be the first African female referee for table tennis at the Olympics since the institution of the event in 1896 in Athens.

The journey began on the school benches for Lentz, who refused to give up and pursued her dream, studying and training professionally to reach her national and provincial status and qualifications in umpiring and later refereeing.

She is no stranger to international games, reaching the shores of Japan to Moscow and was even selected to umpire at the First Youth Olympics including the World Table Tennis Championships.

“In 1999, I joined the Boundary Table Tennis Club in Bonteheuwel and started university in 2000 where I played for the university,” she said.

“‘I was encouraged to do my umpires exams. I started with my league umpires qualification and went on to complete my provincial and national qualification.

“In 2006, I qualified as an international table tennis umpire. This kick-started my stints as an umpire around the world.

“I was selected to umpire at the Beijing Paralympics in 2008. In 2009 I was selected to umpire at the World Table Tennis Championships in Japan and this is where I wrote the Advanced Umpires Exam in the hope of becoming a Blue Badge Umpire.

“In 2010, I was selected to umpire at the World Table Tennis Championships in Moscow and ... in 2011 I picked up my final evaluation which was an absolute sweet moment as the first Junior Table Tennis Championships were held in Cape Town that year.

Among others, Lentz says: “In 2016 the South African Table Tennis Board selected me to do the National Referees Course in Sudan and in 2017 and I did the International Referees Course.

“I became the first female referee on the continent of Africa. In 2019 I started my stint. I was selected to referee in Ghana, Nigeria and at the 2019 University Games in Napoli, Italy.”

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