International technical official Helen Roberts
The first episode in a new podcast series focusing on athletics officials features Helen Roberts, an international technical official from Australia with almost 30 years of experience.
As a former athlete, a coach and an official, Roberts’ journey has taken her from the club scene all the way to the Olympic Games.
This ‘Official business’ series is presented by athlete and Athletics Ireland Women in Sport manager Lilly-Ann O'Hora and Vicky Huyton, coach and founder of the Female Coaching Network, as they interview some of the women involved in the world of officiating.
After competing as an athlete at club level, Roberts initially moved into coaching, which she did alongside her teaching career. In 1996, while attending an athletics meeting as a coach, she was asked by a technical official if she could help out due to low numbers. Almost 30 years later, she has never looked back.
Just four years into her technical official journey, Roberts found herself standing in-field at the Sydney Olympic Games, joining an audience of 110,000 spectators in watching in awe as Cathy Freeman flew around the track to win her historic 400m gold.
Empowering women in athletics
The Empowering Women in Athletics group on Facebook is an extension of the work of the Gender Leadership Taskforce, offering a community for women in athletics and a place where they can share stories and experiences as well as ideas and projects.
Roberts goes on to explain that one of her favourite things about being an official is the community you feel a part of and the development of the athletes you follow.
"You start to know the athletes, as you meet them from a young age and follow their career,” she says. “They start to see you as part of the furniture, and you just want to see how their lives end up. You become part of the person. You see them get married, have kids and now their kids are competing. It’s a real love of it!"
With an infectious smile and passionate tone, Roberts shares her journey, explaining the highs and occasional lows of being an international technical official, officially appointed by World Athletics since 2018.