Mexborough taekwondo referee Clare Laybourne selected for Paralympics
We’ve all had a whinge and a moan at referees but very few of us ever feel compelled to step into the officials’ shoes.
But Scorpion Taekwondo coach Clare Laybourne did exactly that – and now she’s preparing for a dream trip to Tokyo to referee at the Paralympic Games.
The 47-year-old, from Mexborough, is among a select group of 15 male and 15 female referees to be selected by World Taekwondo.
“I started in taekwondo when I was 14. My sister – Adele Deakes – started and I sort of got persuaded by my mum and dad to do it,” Clare told the Free Press.
“We both competed internationally and for the British team and we just kept going with it and then we opened our own club.
“We were taking our fighters to competitions and I was sat moaning about the referees being not up to par shall we say.
“The chief referee walked up to me and said ‘put up or shut up – if you want to do something about it then become a referee’. So that’s what I did!
“I continued to teach but I was a referee as well and it just went on from there. It was about 2010 when I started refereeing.”
Clare passed her international referee qualification in 2018 and a year later, while also busy setting up Scorpion Taekwondo in Mexborough, attended the Olympic test event in Tokyo. She has since attended various continental and world qualification events.
“It’s been a work in progress,” she said.“I did all of the qualification events and I had to go to all of the Olympic camps to be selected so this was always the end game as it were.
“It was May 2019 when we did the Olympic camp which put me into the top 50 in the world and then it’s just been a case of going through all the processes to be selected in the top 30.”
Para-taekwondo is featuring at the Paralympics for the first time in Tokyo.
“You need eyes in the back of your head as a referee,” said Clare. “What you see on television, we don’t see that. We’re relying on our peripheral view and you only have that split second to make a decision.
“What makes it harder in para-taekwondo is that coaches can challenge everything. That puts more pressure on a para-referee than an able-bodied referee.”