Having more women among international referees is one of the goals set by the FIVB and the Refereeing Commission: the first sessions in Earls Court showed how much gender equity has improved in the last years.
Three of them had already an ID Olympic card in their collection: USA Patricia Salvatore, Czech Karin Zahorcova and Thailand’s Janpen Jirakakul.
Serbian Zorica Bjelic is a top volleyball referee, but for the Olympic records she’s a “rookie”. She was appointed on the first day to referee Italy–Dominican Republic.
The second absolute beginner is Susana Maria Rodriguez Jativa, who refereed the match China–Serbia to close the morning session. A 37-year-old bank employee in Albacete, Spain, Mrs. Rodriguez was still thrilled after she closed the match which gave the victory 3-1 to China. “You can be prepared, you can be perfectly trained, but the first time at the Olympics is something so exciting that you cannot describe” she said just after the game. “We’re really proud that the FIVB is now pushing so much women to reach the top international level. I mean, there should never be a definition of gender: referees should be considered because of their quality, not because of their gender. It’s fantastic to be here and it’s great to think that we’re giving a strong message to all the volleyball referees at home. We’re here, so you can do it.”