Portrait of an Umpire: Lim Hong Zhen

Name: Lim Hong Zhen

Umpiring Rank: International World Panel

The name ‘Lim Hong Zhen’ may be a very familiar name to many. Chances are, he umpired at least one of your hockey games due to his very active status in the local umpiring scene.

“I do any kind of games. I never pick my games but rather let the games pick me instead.”

Being the first Singaporean hockey umpire to achieve the World Panel ranking, Lim felt “extremely proud and honoured” and had “a great sense of achievement.” However, Lim pointed out that behind the scenes, there was a steep learning curve to perform as an international umpire and it takes great fortitude to be recognized as “one of the best.”

“No matter where you come from, even in Singapore with such a small hockey playing population, as long as you put in the hard work, stay humble, never stop learning and improving, you stand a chance to get to the top!”

The 32-year-old has an impressive 13 years of officiating experience to date; 10 years in the FIH International Circuit and 3 years locally. After receiving his International Badge in the 2007 Singapore International Challenge, Lim’s drive, passion and pursuit of greatness took him to where he is today, a World Panel Umpire.

“Great journey! Long, some might say. But to me, it was awesome! I enjoyed every single part of this and would never trade any part of it away”

Lim comes from strong athletic stock. His father was a Malaysian state player in Badminton. However, Lim chose his own path in Fajar Secondary School, finding his calling in Hockey.

“I was good [in badminton] but not the best. I wanted to be a singles player but was always teamed up to play in doubles. So, I gave Hockey a try and I guess, as what people say, the rest is history.”

He proved to everyone that he had the potential to make it far in the sport. He represented several clubs including Singapore Khalsa Association, Jansenites and Singapore Cricket Club, during his competitive playing days and made it to the National Age Group Teams. But what he calls “an act of God” changed his path in hockey completely at the age of 19. A freak cycling accident kept him out of training for 8 months.

“By the 5th or 6th month, I got bored of sitting at home so I started to go for training to help the coaches with miscellaneous tasks like picking or laying the cones and balls during sessions. One day, the Senior Men’s team were to play the Juniors. My coach needed another umpire so he threw a whistle to me and that’s when I blew my first hockey game as an unofficial umpire. I liked the experience and some senior players complimented on my decent job at officiating. This sparked a fire in my belly!”

Developing and growing as an umpire since 2007, Lim has earned himself many officiating trips all over the world. However, he always had a goal and dream in mind – to officiate at the Olympic level. Through hard work and determination, he was finally given an officiating appointment in the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, which was held in Rio de Janeiro.

“The level of hockey was fantastic; the skill level was definitely world class. Even though I only umpired 3 games,  it was 3 great games (G.B vs NZL, IRL vs GER & BRA vs AUS) to prepare me for other assignments in the future! So, I just soaked up every moment of it.”

Despite seemingly having his dreams fulfilled, he is still setting targets to umpire at  other top level tournaments. His current aim is to umpire in the 2018 World Cup, which is set to be held in India. He shared with us that if possible, his lifetime goal is to umpire in 3 Olympics and 3 World Cup tournaments.

Aside from Lim’s amazing achievements and experiences, it seems like the number one question many ask is regarding the flexibility to travel for overseas umpiring stints. His secret? Family support and the family business that he manages.

“I am married to my beautiful wife, Jamie, and we have a daughter, Mikayla, who is 3 and half now. Jamie knows zip about hockey but is always supportive whenever I go for a tournament. Also, I am currently running my family business, which deals with Aluminium Extrusions and Hardware. This is the flexibility I have as my boss is my father, making it much easier to get my leave approved.”

Being an umpire certainly has its perks and downside. For Lim, umpiring helped him to be open-minded to ideas and feedback, which he translates back into his everyday life. He believes to be able to achieve your aspirations as an umpire, one has to live by this mantra: Your Attitude Will Determine Your Altitude in Life.

Lim’s next international appointment will be in the 2018 Commonwealth Games held in Gold Coast, Australia, from 5th-14th April. Continue to follow his journey and the journey of our local umpires and the fraternity right here on singaporehockey.org and our social media channels.