Local hockey officials make Olympic return
Chee and Lim will be representing Singapore in Tokyo, like they did in Rio
They may have called time on their playing careers more than a decade ago, but two former national hockey players will be taking part in their second consecutive Olympics in the coming fortnight.
Lilian Chee, 46, and Lim Hong Zhen, 36, will be at Tokyo 2020 as officials, whose job will be to ensure the smooth running of the Games' hockey competition.
They are among several Singapore officials who have been appointed to officiate on sports' biggest stage (see list on the right).
As a technical official, Chee will be in charge of the off-field management which involves enforcing the rules and regulations and managing players, team managers and coaches.
Lim, who is an umpire, will officiate games and manage the conduct of match play, such as calling out fouls.
The pair, who were also at Rio 2016, are excited about their second Olympic stint since becoming officials about 15 years ago.
Said Chee: "To go to the Olympics is a dream for us as officials and going to the Tokyo Olympics was something that both of us were working towards when we first started officiating."
Lim added that he was excited to resume officiating duties, especially since he used to travel regularly for international competitions.
The last competitive game that he officiated was an International Hockey Federation Pro League clash between Britain and New Zealand in Auckland in February 2020.
The Covid-19 pandemic may have meant a lack of "match practice" for the duo, but they are making up for it by doing their own "homework".
They must familiarise themselves with things such as the latest rules and protocols to observe when players test positive for the coronavirus.
Said Chee: "There's a lot of reading we need to do. So it's about clearing your day job and spending time at night watching matches online, looking through the rules and regulations, highlighting key changes to take note of."
Chee, who is director of industry marketing at the Singapore Tourism Board, added that she is grateful to her colleagues and employer for supporting her hockey dream.
Likewise for Lim, who is a sports development manager at national agency Sport Singapore.
To cope with a lack of match action, he has been running three times a week to maintain his physical fitness.
"The only thing we can do now is running," he said. "Hockey referees are more like football and rugby referees, so we have to chase after the play a lot, unlike chair umpires."
They also have to observe various safe management measures, which include minimising social contact before leaving for Tokyo.
With about three decades of officiating experience between them, Chee and Lim have had their fair share of memorable moments on the pitch.
Chee recalled getting goosebumps when she was a technical official at the 2014 Champions Trophy in Mendoza, Argentina, for the semi-final between the hosts and the Netherlands.
She said: "The atmosphere at the stadium was electrifying and whenever I had to communicate with the team managers, coaches of both teams, we literally had to shout.
"It was an amazing experience for me to witness Argentinians' passion for the sport and their love for 'Las Leonas' (nickname for the Argentina women's hockey team) as we don't get such emotions in Singapore."
Lim's career highlight was at the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast, where he was appointed the umpire for the final.
"It was a big honour and I think I am the first Singaporean to have done it," he said.
"Even though it is a different kind of responsibility, we are still representing Singapore and we want the best side of us to be shown to the world.
"When the announcer said where I was from, it was a very proud moment."
The pair encouraged others who want to follow their path to take the leap of faith.
Said Chee: "If you still have passion for the sport, there are always different paths to take to contribute back to the sport."
Lim added: "Take it after you retire as a high-performance athlete. This is another pathway to give back to your sport.
"Look at myself and Lilian.
"Who would have imagined two individuals from a tiny nation going to the Olympics to compete with some of the best technical officials from countries that play more hockey than we do and with more established systems?""
SINGAPORE OFFICIALS AT TOKYO 2020
● Archery - David Tan (technical official)
● Diving - William Lee (judge)
● Fencing - Eugene Chua ( referee)
● Football - Taqi Aljaafari Jahari (video assistant referee)
● Hockey - Lilian Chee (technical official) and Lim Hong Zhen (umpire)
● Rugby - Wang Shao-Ing (judicial officer)
● Sailing - Aileen Loo, Selvam Mookken (both technical officials)
● Shooting - Samuel Tong (shotgun referee)
● Sport climbing - Stanley Yeo ( jury president)
● Table tennis - Christabel Koh (umpire)
● Triathlon - Omar Abu Bakar (chief lap auditor)
● Badminton - Ser Bee Yee (umpire)
● Triathlon - Jasmine Ong (assistant aid station official)
● Tang Kwai Fong, Michael Tay, Wong Choong Hoong, Tay Soon Nghee, Tan Moh Lee, Michael Sua, Clara Cheng, Irene Tan, Lim Hong Loon, Evelyn Tan