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The Rediff Interview / C K Valson

'If you do something good, you are appreciated'

Shobha Warrier

After Komaleeswaran Sankar joined the elite club of referees in the 2002 football World Cup, and A S Viswanathan officiated in the World Bridge Championship as director, it was the turn of C K Valson, also from Chennai like the other two, to touch heights not reached by any Indian.

A Malayali from Mahe, Valson passed the Level 3 examination conducted by the International Athletics Technical Federation early this year. In the process, he became one of 37 International Technical Officials (ITOs) selected to an exclusive panel to officiate at athletic events all over the world.

C K Valson His first assignment as ITO was the Asian Games in Busan. From there he went to Bangkok as a technical delegate for the Junior Asian Track and Field Championships.

The technical delegate is totally in charge of staging the meet, overseeing the work of all other officials.

The 45-year old's tryst with athletics started as a collegian in Chennai, where he represented his college as a long jumper and became university champion in the event. In 1980, after finishing college, he joined the Port Trust of India and took to coaching. But in 1987 his interest shifted to officiating. That was because of a former Tamil Nadu Athletic Association secretary called Selvanayakam, he says.

"It was only because of him that I wrote the State Federation Technical Official exam, and the questions were on the rules and specifications of the 22 events that are there in athletics, including everything from the walk events to the marathon. To my surprise, I scored 97 per cent and was ranked number one," recalls Valson.

Valson's performance as a technical official at the state level gave him a lot of confidence, and within two years he decided to appear for the national examination so that he could officiate at national meets. At the national level, too, he stood first and went on to become the country's top technical official.

In another two years' time, his name was recommended by the national panel for the international Level One examination.

"If you want to be in the international panel, you have to first write the Level One examination followed by Level Two and then the Level Three examination. Level One is a basic exam, which I wrote in 1991, in Malaysia, and it is not of much importance. So then itself my mind was set on passing all the examinations."

In 1997, after he passed the Level Two examination in Singapore, he was asked to officiate as Area (Asian) Technical Official (ATO) at all the international meets in Asia.

"My first international meet as ATO was the Junior Asian Track and Field at Bangkok. I was very nervous, because organising an event there was totally different from what we do in our country. But it turned out to be a memorable experience for me. There was the 10,000 metre race, and there were 33 participants. Usually, if we have more than 16 athletes, we have qualifying rounds. But it was decided to have one race so that there would not be much strain on the junior athletes. So, all the 33 athletes were running at the same time. I was deputed as the ATO (Asian Technical Official), and had to supervise all the events. I decided to have a record of all the 33 athletes which included the time of the start and finish. At the photo-finish people took only the finish upto eight places. Remember, I had the sheet which carried the entire start to finish list," said Valson, recounting the eventful day.

After the event got over, Valson went to his room in the evening. Next morning, the technical delegate was annoyed to see only the photo-finish timings of the first eight places. But Valson submitted the sheet in which he had recorded the performances of all the 33 runners. And, were they not impressed?

"It was difficult to take all the 33 places but I could do it because I had worked in India where there are a large number of participants. The person who nominated me as ATO was the happiest! He still remembered the incident when I met him at Busan for the Asian Games, and narrated it to others. One thing that I have found out is: if you do something good, you are appreciated."

Then followed the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Malaysia, the 1998 Senior Asian Track and Field in Japan, the 1999 South East Asian Games in Brunei, the 2000 Asian Track and Field in Jakarta and the 2001 Junior Asian Track and Field in Brunei.

In 2001, Valson was eligible to appear for the Level Three examination, which was held in Singapore. It is mandatory for all officials, even those who had cleared it earlier to appear for the examination every five years because rules are changed and updated. In the first part of the exam -- Chapter A, candidates have to score full marks to qualify for Chapter B. And only if one scores 90 per cent in Chapter B can he move further. There was also a physical endurance test which saw Valson stand first. At 45, he was also the youngest candidate! All the other candidates were above 50.

Once again, Valson was selected and became one among four Asians (the others were from Sri Lanka, Malaysia and China) and the first Indian to join the elite club of International Technical Officials (ITO) that has only 37 members.

C K Valson "I did not expect to be selected as there were many senior and experienced hands writing the exam. The result was announced on the 12th of January, 2002. I was at home as it was a holiday. I got a call from Delhi and the caller congratulated me. I asked, what for? He then told me that I had passed the ITO exam. The very next day, I got a fax from the International Athletics Federation congratulating me. Then I got a call from the Asian secretary, congratulating me on getting selected as one among the four from Asia. I cannot say how happy I was."

The first meet Valson officiated in after being selected as ITO was at the Busan Asian Games.

"Everything was well-advanced in Korea. So, for the technical official, the job is much easier with camera back-ups everywhere. But it is very difficult in India as we do not have back-ups. It is a different story in countries like China, Japan, Korea, Malaysia etc.

"Although it is a small country, Malaysia conducted the Commonwealth Games very beautifully. In Busan, everything was so properly organised that everything went off well and there was not a single protest. The only difficulty that we had was conversing with people as very few knew English there," he observed.

Soon after the Asian Games, Valson was technical delegate at the Junior Asian Track and Field Championships at Brunei.

"Working as a technical delegate is the ultimate that any official can hope for. It is also a very tough job but extremely challenging and satisfying."

Valson's next major assignment will be the World Youth Athletics Meet in Canada in June, 2003, as an International Technical Official (ITO).

"My dream is to officiate in the World Championships and the Olympics. I want to be a technical delegate in some of the major international meets! I think I will be able to make it as age is also on my side!" he concluded.

Photographs: Sreeram Selvaraj

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