2018 WA Sports Star Official of the Year Award Winner Jiten Bhatt
25 February, 2019
The 2018 WA Sports Star Awards were held on Thursday 7 February 2019 at Optus Stadium, where hundreds of people gathered to recognise those who have excelled within the WA sporting industry throughout 2018.
Community TAB was sponsor of the Official of the Year Award after having worked closely with WA Sports Federation and the Department of Sport and Recreation for many years.
Community TAB proudly presented the Award to the very worthy winner, Jiten Bhatt from Badminton.
We had a chat with Jiten about his journey with Badminton in WA, Australia and internationally.
When and how did you first become involved in Badminton?
I was first exposed to Badminton when I was a young kid watching others play on a single court at a local youth centre in Tanzania, Africa. But I only recall starting to play after the age of about 7 with my mum or aunts in the backyard or in the car park outside our home with friends after I moved to the UK. Yep i started playing outdoors, was still heaps of fun having to adapt for the wind conditions and when I didn't have anyone to play with I would hit a shuttle against the wall at home. Luckily i didn't get in trouble for it! I played at a school club and represented my high school, University and even the WA State team. When I moved to Australia for work the first thing I looked for was a badminton club (UWA Badminton Club) and found a place to stay near there in Nedlands. I went to a local tournament in Kingsway to support a few friends from the club who were competing and since there were a shortage of umpires, I was one of the many who were asked if they could help to keep score. Helping in 1 match led to a few more matches and in one of those matches I umpired Kelly Hoare - 2017 WA Technical Official of the Year. She was playing in a ladies doubles match and I caught her attention when I asked her for the old shuttle when she changed it for a new one because I was using the shuttle to keep track of who was serving - this amused her greatly. After the match she showed me how to keep a track of the score/servers on the scoresheet and it was actually a lot easier than I had thought. She thought I did a great job and asked me if I ever considered becoming an umpire with all the various perks of being able to travel around Australia and possibly the world while watching the amazing action from the best seat in the house - I was sold there and then!
What sort of training did it take to get to your level of official in Badminton?
I started off taking an Umpire's Course (conducted by my mentor Greg Vellacott), then followed it up by accumulating practice umpiring on the courts locally in WA and inter-state being appraised/given feedback by the senior officials. As I progressed I was assessed through the various levels both practically and theoretically (exam papers - Senior, State, and National). I attended International tournaments early on as a Line Judge to observe and help get experience of the biggest stages as I continued to Umpire in tournaments in Oceania and also further afield internationally as I moved through to Oceania (Accredited and Certificated) to BWF Accredited level until finally the very top level of BWF Certificated. As I got through to the Oceania Certificated level and above I was also lucky to be able to go to more tournaments where BWF Assessors were present and hence obtain even more specific feedback and advice from different Assessors who had a wealth of experience behind them to learn from. Badminton World Federation have this appraisal system in place to help with the development of Umpires, where assessors watch us in action on the courts and then give direct feedback and areas to improve on. This has been a great aid to me in helping to push my personal level even further and faster to the stage where I currently am now in being given the responsibility to oversee some of the greatest matches/finals.
Why do you love being involved in Badminton?
Badminton was the first thing that gave me an identity. When I was young I was fairly shy and reserved but through badminton I have been able to grow more as a person, gain recognition through hard work and become a more confident and outgoing person. You learn so much about yourself through this journey. Make no mistake about it there are tough times every official in every sport has to go through at times, but there are many more high moments that come around once you take the challenges on. For me badminton is a passion - I love playing it and watching it hence being able to contribute to it brings me great joy. You get to see the amazing action from the best seats in the house, be it at local grassroots events or major world events. You get to travel the world and make great friendships along the way which allows you to enjoy your free time even more. There is a great social and diverse community of officials and badminton helps to bring us all closer together. Out on court you are never alone but with a team.
What is your career highlight/s?
There are many highlights for me. Some of these are:
- Being one of 5 umpires selected (the only BWF Accredited Umpire) for finals day duty at the Sudirman Cup (World Mixed Team Championships) in China in 2015 - I didn't get to umpire since I was down to umpire the final match if it came to it but I was the Service Judge during the tie winning match.
- I will always remember my very first big Umpiring final which was at the Super Series event in Paris (October 2015). The Men's double's finale.
- The first five major finals I was given to umpire covered each of the 5 disciplines (Mens Doubles, Womens Doubles, Mixed Doubles, Womens Singles and Mens Singles) which was a special highlight since it showed my versatility as each event has its own unique feel and flow to manage/control as well as a different Referee who may see different strengths in your officiating. One of these included my very first Australian Open Super Series Final to Umpire - the Women's single's finale - which was a big personal milestone for me to achieve in my home country.
- Of course last year brought about three huge highlights/high profile matches for me - Umpiring the cracking MS finale at the World Super Series Final in Dubai (December 2017), Umpiring the Gold Medal MD finale at the Commonwealth Games (April 2018) which was a super proud moment for my mum and family being able to see me live on TV and finally the biggest match of my career to date - the decisive MD match in the Thomas Cup Finals in Bangkok (May 2018) - the World Teams Finals. A closely contested match between China and Japan which had amazingly fast rallies in an electrifying atmosphere with the crowd being very vocal and thoroughly entertained in a very intense encounter that went the way of China, after they had saved 2 match points, to give them the Team Gold.
What does it mean to you to be awarded Official of the Year at the WA Sports Star Awards?
Wow...it’s just totally awesome to be recognised for my performances and achievements especially when you consider it takes into account all the sports in WA. Even though I knew I had a pretty darn good year officiating, it was still a big surprise to hear my name called out by Basil, but definitely a pleasant one! Badminton is not one of the more popular sports in Australia even though it has a huge following in other regions including Asia where it is the number one sport in a fair few countries, so it's great to be acknowledged here at home. To add on top of that, it's great that I have been able to follow directly in the footsteps of last year’s winner Kelly Hoare. For WA Badminton officials to win this award two years in a row is amazing and it shows the highest standards that we attain towards on the world scene. I hope it can help to raise the profile of the sport and inspire many others to take this amazing path. To me this award is a recognition of the hard work that I have put in throughout the years which are resulting in my consistently positive performances in my field - it gives me great pride, greater hope and more motivation to continue to work hard at what I am passionate about