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Thursday, 22 July 2021

Lecturer is Africa’s first female table tennis referee at Olympics

POWER OF DREAMS: Africa’s first female table tennis referee, Genevieve Lentz’ mission is to ensure that development takes place on a grassroots level and that more women are capacitated to become top officials. POWER OF DREAMS: Africa’s first female table tennis referee, Genevieve Lentz’ mission is to ensure that development takes place on a grassroots level and that more women are capacitated to become top officials.

Being the first female deputy referee in Africa to officiate at the Olympics Games for table tennis is a heavy responsibility for Intermediate Phase Education Lecturer, Genevieve Lentz, who is 'entirely prepared for'. 

The excited PhD candidate in Education is set to participate in the 2020 Summer Olympics, branded as Tokyo 2020, scheduled to be held from 23 July to 8 August 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. The 2020 Olympics and Paralympics were postponed from last year because of the outbreak of Covid-19. The Bonteheuwel-born referee says: “I hope to be an asset to the refereeing team and offer the players and officials a successful Olympics Games. This is also my ‘Neil Armstrong’ moment in history as my success is a step for women but a leap for womankind in sport. There can only be seven women in the world representing each continent that can rightfully take up the position as I am, as the first referee.

“I am privileged and honoured to be representing Africa as the first female referee.”


Vice-Chancellor, Prof Chris Nhlapo applauds Lentz on her selection as deputy referee in table tennis for the Tokyo Olympics. Nhlapo says her selection enriches an already illustrious sporting career that has taken “you around the globe”.  “As a former CPUT student and now staff member, I really take pride in your exceptional talent and the hard work it must have taken to acquire your blue badge for umpiring. I do hope you enjoy the experience and stay safe while travelling,” says Nhlapo.


Lentz, who recently obtained her Master’s in Education summa cum laude, has officiated as an umpire at three Olympics events, which include Beijing Paralympics; First Youth Olympics and London Olympics, and this time around she will officiate her fourth Olympics as Deputy Referee which is “the highlight of my career”.Her success has evolved over 20 years, having started in table tennis as a player after she was introduced to the sport at primary school and “I played it over weekends on our kitchen table”. Lentz continued playing at Arcadia Senior Secondary School before joining the Boundary Table Tennis Club for whom she played league games.

Whilst playing for Boundary, the young Lentz realised that she had a knack for umpiring and pursued qualifying herself as a professional umpire. Lentz started with the League Exam then the Provincial Exam and proceeded to the National Exam before she officiated on all levels in South Africa. In 2006, the opportunity arose to write the International Umpires Exam which “I embraced and successfully qualified as an International Umpire”.In 2011, she became the first South African female to obtain a Blue Badge Umpire status which is seen as the elite umpires eligible to officiate at the Olympics. In 2017, Lentz became the first female referee in Africa for table tennis.

The difference between an umpire and a referee is that an umpire has jurisdiction of the court, which includes the players in the match and the referee has jurisdiction of the whole tournament, which means that all players, coaches and officials fall under the referee. The very dedicated nGAP Lecturer says Hajera Kajee, Vice President of Administration for the South African Table Tennis Board, was very instrumental in the fast-tracking of her career as an official. “Her heartbeat is gender equity and she wholeheartedly supported me and motivated me throughout my journey. Furthermore, my mother has taught me and my siblings to be principled and have integrity, thus always having a strong work ethic.”Lentz is also mindful that this year’s Olympics will be like no other, taking place during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I feel confident that the IOC and LOC of Japan have implemented all safety protocols and implement safety plans to keep all the participants safe. Each of us has the responsibility to keep ourselves safe by adhering to the social distancing and all other covid-19 protocols.”Lentz is optimistic about the opportunity afforded to her. “I will be an asset to the Referee Team, gain invaluable experience which I can bring back to South Africa and the African continent to share with my colleagues.”Her mission is to ensure that development takes place on the grassroots level and that more women are capacitated to become officials.

“My word of encouragement, particularly to women, is that you are good enough and have the potential to achieve anything you set your mind to. Stay focused on your goals and silence the white noise around you. You will be successful and rise above and beyond your circumstances.” 

Written by Aphiwe Boyce