Lori Chaplin was just metres from Australian swimming history at the Tokyo Olympic Games.
The Southern Cross Swimming Club member was part of an international team of race referees on the water at Odiaba Marine Park in Tokyo.
As such, the Burpengary East resident was on Referee 1 as Queenslander Kareena Lee won Australia’s first Olympic marathon open water swimming medal.
Once the officials had ensured everyone raced “fairly and safely” and medals were presented, Mrs Chaplin said Lee’s achievement sunk in.
“I could not have been happier for her,” Mrs Chaplin said of Lee's bronze medal. “It was such a proud moment and so wonderful to see.”
Mrs Chaplin was selected as a Technical Official representing Australia, New Zealand and Oceania for the Olympic 10km marathon open water event on August 4-5.
“The Olympics exceeded all my expectations,” she said of her Games debut, “nothing beats the Olympics.
“I have travelled a bit and always wanted to go to Japan and Tokyo, then I got the chance.
“I wasn’t nervous. Once we were out on the water I could see Tokyo, the TV tower, the Olympic rings … all so real and so exciting.
“The Japanese Olympic Committee did a wonderful job and were such beautiful, obliging people.”
Mrs Chaplin flew back with the Matildas football team and quarantined for two weeks in Sydney, which was “well worth it for the experience of Tokyo”.
Her Olympic debut will join the Swimming Australia pin, for 10 consecutive years of national meets, as landmarks in an officiating career of more than 20 years.
Water has been part of Mrs Chaplin’s life since her children were swimming and continues through to her husband’s love of fishing.
She started officiating to help at a club meet and worked up through Brisbane and state events to travelling Australia and overseas to Papua New Guinea and Samoa.
“Some events you can have 100 competitors going into the water and you have to make sure 100 come out safely,” Mrs Chaplin said.
“It’s a matter of attention to detail, making sure everyone is able to race fairly and safely.
“This is a voluntary thing. We get what is really petrol money for events, but that’s not why we do this. It’s for the love of the sport.”
Every three years open water officials have to complete a training course with the world body FINA, which includes first aid and getting an 85 per cent written exam pass mark.
FINA representatives are appointed for four years - Mrs Chaplin is in her third but has been reappointed for another four.
Accreditations and certificates list her as being from Southern Cross Swimming Club, where she still helps at club championships.
However, Mrs Chaplin is also mentoring our next generation of pool and open water officials.
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