One of Tasmania's true Olympic veterans is bracing for what will be a very different experience indeed.
Devonport's world-class hockey official Minka Woolley on Tuesday will depart for Tokyo for her fifth Olympics campaign, with Tokyo to be her third as an Olympics umpires manager after umpiring at Athens and Beijing.
But in a COVID-19 impacted world it won't be anywhere near what she has experienced in the past, with the lead-in already featuring "hundreds of hours" of preparation and countless Zoom meetings to ensure the umpiring group is well and truly across the protocols that will be in place.
The lack of crowds, and comparative lack of freedom compared to previous Olympics, will provide a challenge, one she believed would be conquered.
"It will be a very different experience this time around, but still an amazing experience,'' she admitted
"We were appointed in May 2019, which is a long time ago [with the Games postponed in 2020] and a lot of work has gone in with all the protocols we have to follow and all the [COVID] testing, as we have to have two tests on the weekend and test every day.
"So our role for this one is very much just supporting all our umpires, particularly our first timers, to make it a memorable and positive experience for them and manage their expectations as we can only go from the ground to the hotel and back.
"So there's no bars, restaurants or anything like that and nothing outside the hotel and we won't get to go to the opening and closing ceremonies, which is normally an amazing part of the experience as well. We normally get to go and see other events, which is part of the spectacle which we can't do this time."
Woolley, will be one of three umpire managers, with 28 umpires [14 men and 14 women] from around the world under their watch.
"Because there has been so few tournaments around the world over the past two years, our umpires have had very little umpiring [in a COVID environment], so in terms of that we've had to do a lot of work via zoom meetings and really making sure they are up to speed with all the protocols,'' she said.
"It is a little bit easy for us as everything is delivered in English, but there are a number of people in our team where English is not their first language, so that takes a little bit longer and we have had to develop all the briefings, which is up to us this time, which is normally an FIH [International Hockey Federation] thing.
"We also have umpires from the UK and India need to have an extra three days of quarantine meaning five of the team is not available for the first day of competition, which is another challenge."
Looking after the mental health of the umpires will also be important.
"Once we get to quarter-finals for nearly half of them their tournament will be over and they will have a week off which what would have been an opportunity to visit other sports in the past will instead be a week of pretty much nothing,'' she said.
"So with their mental health will need to be supported in a big way and how we manage that disappointment of not being able to go any further and we need to manage how they look after themselves during that time,
"It will all be a big challenge, but that doesn't mean it will be a bad challenge."
It will be a very different experience this time around, but still an amazing experience.Minka Woolley
Despite these challenges, nothing can take away the pride that Woolley feels about the fact Tokyo will be her fifth Olympic Games.
"I do have to pinch myself that here I am coming from little old Devonport on the North-West Coast and I am going to my fifth Olympics,'' said Woolley, who has been involved in the sport for more than 50 years.
"There wouldn't be too many people in Australia that have gone to five Olympics, so I do feel incredibly proud about that and I am so lucky to have had the support of Hockey Tasmania and Hockey Australia and I am thrilled to be able to be able to represent the Coast in hockey in this way.
"It has been a ride I have really enjoyed and didn't expect to be on and while the journey is still there I will certainly grab it for sure."
The Olympics hockey schedule kicks off on Saturday, July 24, with matches played at Oi Hockey Stadium.
Men's medals will be decided on Thursday, August 5, and women's on Friday. August 6.
Woolley has also been an umpires manager at World Cup events, and at national league tournaments around Australia, as well as Commonwealth Games and the Australian Hockey League.
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