Introducing Genevieve Lentz , Pioneering Olympics Umpire and International Referee

Genevieve Lentz is many things. She is a lecturer, high school teacher, public relations officer, and a pioneer for African women in the sporting world. The table tennis expert was the first African female elite blue badge umpire, first African female table tennis umpire to participate in the Olympics, the first African female qualified to umpire games for the disabled, and of 2017, Africa’s first female International Table Tennis Federation referee.

In addition to umpiring at Olympics, Genevieve has umpired at the World Disabled Table Tennis Championships, African Table Tennis Championships, the World Table Tennis Championships, and the the Youth Olympics. She was also the only African female umpire at the 2008 Beijing Paralympics. Her umpiring duties have taken her to London, Japan, Moscow, Singapore and many other places. It was also in Japan that she completed her Advanced Umpires qualification to become an elite Blue Badge umpire, the highest level of international umpiring.

At this point, you might wonder what the difference between an umpire and a referee is. Simply put, an umpire enforces the rules for individual matches in a tournament whereas a referee is in control of the entire tournament. The umpire tells the players what to do and the referee is in charge of the players, the umpires and the deputy referees. Her recognition as an international referee basically means that she is one of the top dogs.

Born and bred in Bonteheuwel, Genevieve says the road to becoming an international referee is difficult and long. She started umpiring in 2001 and it took her almost 17 years to get to where she is. She says there were numerous tests and levels that she had to go through before she was accepted as an internationally recognised referee. The exams are tough with very few qualifying to do the exam and even fewer passing the exam. She says that two of the 13 people that wrote the referee exam with her panicked and walked out before they could complete it. Only 6 passed.

Genevieve admits that she was never a really good player, so she always ended umpiring which was something she loved doing. She only started taking the sport seriously while studying at the University of the Western Cape, where she completed her BA Honours degree in Language Communication and English. Even at that point, she had no ambition to become an internationally recognised referee and she did not even think that she was good enough. However, she seems to be good at almost everything she does.

Being a referee is just one of her many professional titles. She’s an education lecturer at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, teaches English at St, Andrews High School in Elsies River and she is a Public Relations Officer for Western Province Table Tennis. To give you an idea of how much energy she has, while she was teaching, umpiring internationally, and doing public relations, she also decided to study part-time towards Bachelor of Technology degree in the field Of Public Relations, Advertising, and Applied Communication. She completed this degree in 2013.

Genevieve Lentz is many things, but she still wants to do more. She says she is looking forward to reaching greater heights, and for her, the sky is not the limit. It is only the beginning