From this time she has been invited to eight EuroArms and four World Championships. Let us talk with Judyta Wiercinska.
Privately she has a very interesting and serious profession, requiring skills both in hand and in mind. She is a medical physicist at Oncology Center, and working on her PhD in medicine. Admit it - it is impressive. Work, doctoral studies, research and writing a PhD is her everyday reality. That's why she likes trips to competitions, it's always a moment to take a deep breath and enjoy the atmosphere she loves!
Tell me, how was the referee work in Bulgaria?
Judyta Wiercinska: There were some very experienced referees missing from the team, like Monika Duma, Camilla Kattstrom and Ivan Gregoricka. It was not easy to work in a limited team, especially since there were many young, promising referees, but who needed some attention and training from more experienced referees. Unfortunately, we had more protests than usual this year and half of them were considered justified! It's hard to say whether the number of protests was influenced by the greater awareness of the athletes, or too many young referees. For sure, however, athletes could see that the referees knew when to admit their mistakes, and this is a very important issue. Maybe it will affect the prevailing conviction that there is no reason to submit protests, as they will be rejected anyway.
What were the most common mistakes made by athletes, in your opinion?
Judyta Wiercinska: A recurring issue is ignorance of English commands. Not everyone has to know English, but the twenty words spoken by the referees are worth learning so that they do not receive unnecessary warnings. As far as I know, in an increasing number of countries, the Nationals Championships are held in English to help athletes start on the international stage. I definitely support that trend!
Who is harder to referee - women or men?
Judyta Wiercinska: Paradoxically, women's duels are much more difficult to referee than men's. I think we have persistence and bravery carved deep into our DNA. The way the beautiful sex fights for a starting position is unheard of in any male category! Unfortunately, ladies forget that they lose a lot of strength in this way. Such struggles on start very often end with the referee's grip, which you can actually ask the referee for from the very beginning, without losing time and energy. Moreover women's duels have been as interesting as men's for many years now and as much hard to referee. Ladies just argue less with the referees than men do. They are easier to handle in this respect.
In addition to command knowledge, what else should the athletes improve?
Judyta Wiercinska: Athletes coming to the European Championships are very well prepared, both in terms of sport and knowledge of the rules. An issue that I would like to raise and which recurs at each competition are protests. Athletes still do not understand the procedure of submission and, above all, the resolution of protests. I understand that emotions are at play when protesting a referee's verdict, but anger does not help anyone. Let me remind you very briefly that the protesting athlete cannot leave the table and the protest is made by the team captain, upon paying a certain amount. The content of the complaint is submitted by the head referee to the two referees who have refereed a given fight. If the verdict was against the rules, the head referee acknowledges the protest.
If the protest does not concern an incorrect application of the rules, it will depend on the decision of the referees at the table (and not the head referee) whether the protest will be accepted or not. If at least one of the refs determines that they have doubts about the call they made, then the protest is accepted, the money is returned and a rematch is fought, with all the fouls and warnings received so far still standing. However, if the refs uphold their call and claim that they have no doubts, then the protest is rejected. Even if, for example, the head referee saw a given fight and in their opinion the verdict was wrong, he can’t change their call. We still have only two refs at the table, no one else can make a call during a match. There is also no possibility to watch the recordings of fights, which may be at the wrong angle, or do not provide the image from both sides of the table.
That's when the emotions start to come into play...
Judyta Wiercinska: I would like to appeal to the athletes - the referees are only human and can make mistakes! We are rarely thanked by anyone for work well-performed, while stones are cast at us for any mistakes. I am asking for some understanding.
Similarly, I appeal to the referees, especially the young ones - the referee is there for the competitors, not the other way round! To admit a mistake will not ruin our career, but sticking to a wrong decision just to save face may ruin an athlete's career. Remember that they train for years, often sacrificing a lot.
What were the significant changes in the rules of refereeing this year?
Judyta Wiercinska: In the last year, the biggest change concerned the division of duties between the head referee of the table and the side referee. Currently, the auxiliary ref must take a position at the corner of the table and indicate at the start only if the wrists are correctly positioned, in order to focus on the possible elbow fouls at the start and not to obscure the audience's view of the table. This is also important if we want Armwrestling to become a popular media sport. However, it significantly increases the workload of the main referee, who has to ensure proper location of the center or straight shoulders by his own. This change in rules, in my opinion, increases the workload of the main referee.
How had the Polish refs presented themselves at this important event?
Judyta Wiercinska: This year Poland was represented by three refs - Matylda Waberska, Maciej Sosnicki and myself. Both Matylda and Maciej approached the exams raising their qualifications and they both passed without any doubt. Polish referees are very much respected in Europe and all over the world. I often hear complaints about various refs, but I’ve never heard complaints about Poles. In my opinion this is a direct result of restrictive rules we have in Poland regarding referee’s experience before they’re allowed to represent our country in big competitions like Europeans or Worlds. It sometimes happens that people with only a few months of practice come to the Europeans. But it’s not enough to know the rules to be a good referee. Experience allows one to be calm during even the most difficult matches, to see more on the table and to make a good call with a degree of automatism. Refereeing is a very responsible task, so let’s respect the importance of the event we’re taking part in.
Thanks and see you at the table!
Judyta Wiercinska: Greetings to all the Armwrestling people!
Interview by: PeSzy