Cobram’s Damian Van de Berg has been named Swimming Australia’s technical official of the year.
He was also awarded life membership to Swimming Victoria.
Van de Berg ventured to Adelaide for the awards night, where he accepted the honour in front of the Australian Dolphins teams, officials and board.
‘‘They are both very different awards, but I’m very humbled and honoured to have been nominated and recognised for both,’’ he said.
‘‘Gala night was a fantastic experience and very special to receive the technical official of the year award in front of the wider swimming community, including Mrs Gina Rinehart, Swimming Australia patron; Mr John Bertrand, Swimming Australia president; Dawn Fraser; and the Australian Dolphins team, to name a few.
‘‘(It’s) great from a country club in Victoria as a member of Cobram Barooga.’’
The Roger Smith technical official of the year award aims to recognise those who are dedicated to swimming in their community.
Swimming relies heavily on volunteers and without the assistance and guidance of technical officials, competitions and events in communities wouldn’t take place.
Swimming Australia participation and sport development general manager Paul Malcolm was at the awards ceremony on Sunday night.
‘‘Becoming a Roger Smith technical official is a rewarding and excellent way to contribute to the sport, spend time with your children, create great friendships and gain professional development,’’ Malcolm said.
‘‘Swimming in the community wouldn’t be what it is without the support of reliable volunteers like Damian.
‘‘Damian has shown great dedication to the sport and is a trusted technical official within his local community.
‘‘We thank Damian for all of his efforts he’s made to ensure swimming remains a vibrant sport within the Cobram area and for all of the nominees who were put forward.’’
Van de Berg joined Cobram Barooga Swimming Club with his children almost 20 years ago.
He was happy to help the club in many volunteer roles.
‘‘The life membership award again was very special,’’ Van de Berg said.
‘‘In the nearly 125-year history of Swimming Victoria, life memberships awarded would probably number well under 100, and to be recognised alongside icons of the sport of swimming in Victoria really means a lot.’’
He believes the swimming club is still much the same with the small country club being run by parents and volunteers.
However, he said the available pool space, time and cost had changed.
He said it was becoming harder to raise funds to support the club and keep costs down.
As a technical officer, Van de Berg is a pool and open water referee and a FINA list referee.
‘‘The two disciplines are poles apart in many aspects of how to officiate. There’s different rules for each, but equally you are there working to provide a fair and equitable sporting environment for all competitors within the rules,’’ he said.
‘‘For both disciplines you are involved in providing a safe environment for all involved. For open water this is far more complex and varied with the variables of water and weather.’’
Being a FINA list referee has provided Van de Berg with opportunities for some international appointments which are always special and an experience to be savoured.
In 2015 he was appointed the Oceania international technical official to the FINA World Swimming Championships.
Representing Oceania was humbling for the Cobram Barooga club member.
Van de Berg has been busy in the past year with trips to Hong Kong in October 2016 for the FINA 10k Marathon Series World Cup as assistant men’s chief referee, Auckland in April 2017 for the World Masters Games as chief referee and Kuala Lumpur in August as men’s chief referee for the South East Asia (SEA) Games.
‘‘For both awards you invest a lot of time away from your family doing something you love, and it would be very difficult without their support — something which I’ve been very lucky to have had,’’ Van de Berg said.
‘‘At the same time I always endeavour to support the local officials and volunteers in assisting their knowledge of the sport which I really enjoy.’’
He also officiated at the 2017 National OWS Championships in Adelaide, the 2016 SVIC and SQLD OWS championships and the 2017 National Open and Age championships in Brisbane.
‘‘I feel it’s very important to continue to support grassroots clubs and athletes in their endeavours in what I see as a great sport to be involved with,’’ Van de Berg said.