Crawley teacher Frances Block will umpire at 2012 Olympics
A TEACHER at a Crawley college is celebrating after being chosen to be a hockey umpire at the 2012 Olympics.
Frances Block will be part of a 17-strong team of female umpires from around the world.
The 39-year-old Central Sussex College teacher said: "I was told in a formal e-mail and although I didn't know it was going to come on that exact day, I knew it was coming.
"For days beforehand there was the worry whenever I saw a new e-mail pop up.
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"When I saw the heading that morning it was a moment of pause and deep breaths. I opened it and I just sat there staring at it and re-reading it over and over. I let myself have a moment to go 'wow' and then I started crying.
"I am so excited and it's such a relief to finally know I am going to the Olympic Games. I am originally from North London so for me it's an absolute dream."
Block's appointment is especially significant, as she is the only female hockey umpire from the UK to have been offered a place at the Games.
She is also the first female umpire from the UK to be selected for the Olympics since Sydney 2000.
Block added: "It has taken years of hard work and I have months of preparation ahead of me but it will all be worth it.
"My family all applied for tickets because they knew there was a chance I was taking part so I think I will have at least one family member in the audience for the first sessions, which I will be keeping my fingers crossed.
"The students have been amazing as well since I found out. They all seem really interested and have been asking lots of questions."
Frances is curriculum team leader for sport and public service at Central Sussex College's Crawley campus.
During the London Games she will be required to stay in the capital from July 26 to August 12.
She is already training hard and is following a programme called The Road to London, which aims to ensure all umpires are in peak condition both physically and mentally.
She was a keen hockey player, reaching national league standard, before a car accident in 1996 cut short her career.
When her playing career came to an end she turned to umpiring, initially to help out her old hockey club.
Frances, who lives in Brighton, has officiated at events including this year's Indoor World Cup in Poland, the Commonwealth Games in India last year and the 2010 Outdoor World Cup in Argentina.
Her ambitions do not end at next year's Olympics, because the retirement age for umpires is 47.
She has set herself the challenge of performing well next year and remaining in peak condition to be considered for the next Olympic Games, in Rio 2016.