Armed with a 150-page instruction book, and experience as a synchronized swimmer’s mother and frequent spectator, Kamloops’ Joyce Ribalkin wiped her brow, then expressed delight as she watched a series of girls step up on the podium Sunday to collect their bling.
Ribalkin was one of dozens of judges at the BC Summer Games this weekend. And while most of the sports competitions were held in Abbotsford, synchronized swimming was held at the Walnut Grove Community Centre in Langley for the past three days.
Ribalkin is an executive with the Kamloops Sunrays. Her daughter has been swimming competitively for the past six years, and rather than just being a spectator, she chose to get involved – to volunteer. Soon she was refereeing, became involved with the club directors, and now is venturing into judging.
But she admitted to being a little nerve heading into this weekend, it being her first time sitting in the judge’s chair and the first time at a provincial competition as on official.
She explained that there are very specific criteria by which the judges must mark each swimmer in artistic impression, difficulty, and execution.
By Sunday, the only remaining area of competition was the solo category, and swimmers were out of the pool by 10 a.m.
“These swimmers have worked so hard that you want to make sure you’re giving the right marks to the right swimmers and placing the right athletes on the podium… It was a little daunting, but I did okay… I did it,” Ribalkin said.
She herself was beaming as she watched the winners (all ranging in age between 11 and 15) take their turn stepping up to the podium and having a medal placed around their neck.
“It’s a great experience,” added fellow judge and new friend Anne-Marie North of Burnaby.
She too started as a mother observing from the stands 12 years ago, then became a volunteer, began judging and now also teaches others to judge. She’s even a master swimmer herself.
“I wanted to help grow athletes… give them the tools they need to succeed and go on to pursue their dreams, whatever those dreams may be. My primary motivation has and always will be the athletes.”