Kiwi ref Stan Wagner gains London Games spot

GEORGE HEAGNEY
Last updated 12:00 16/06/2012
Stan Wagner
WARWICK SMITH/Fairfax NZ

READY, SET, FIGHT!: Stan Wagner (centre) is the only New Zealand taekwondo referee officiating at the London Olympics next month. Here he referees New Zealand representatives Alan Brian (left) and Caleb Matafeo.

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The chances of making it into a squad of 30 out of 4500 people may seem a long shot to most people, but not to Stan Wagner, New Zealand's top taekwondo referee.

The only New Zealander officiating at the London Olympics, and one of only two from Oceania selected in the Olympic top 30, Wagner arrived back from China on Thursday to attend a national high performance taekwondo camp at the Sport and Rugby Institute at Massey University yesterday.

The original selection was made from 4500 refs around the world which was whittled down to 400, then it was "fairly cut-throat" as it was reduced to 60 before a final 30 were chosen.

"It's an honour to be selected," Wagner said. "Just getting to the top 60 was an achievement, making the top 30 was a dream come true. It's just been an honour and a privilege to represent New Zealand and Oceania on the world stage."

He will be the first New Zealander to have reffed at the junior world championships, senior worlds and the Olympics and his goal was to get the "big four" by doing the world cup in Aruba in November.

"I'm lucky that I've made the top level of reffing.

"It's been a lot of hard work. I'm lucky to be given the opportunity to try out, I've been consistent in the approach, worked hard and I was very happy when I got selected."

Wagner has been on "11 or 12 overseas trips – I've been all over the place" refereeing and during the qualification process as an Olympic ref.

Recently he has been to Thailand, London, Egypt, Azerbaijan, Korea and China officiating and as part of the refereeing selection process.

"It's the pinnacle in any sport ahead of the world championships ... it's the highest of the high."

A referee can't control a fight between someone from their own continent and Wagner wasn't holding his breath for a medal match.

"I'll do as I'm told," he said. "I'll do what the boss tells me."

The Lower Hutt black belt started refereeing in 1985 and in 2005 he made the step up to international level.

In his competing days he was New Zealand heavyweight champion from 1988-1990.

The only other Oceania ref is Aussie Kerry-Ann Lister. Most are from Europe and Asia, but a few are from Africa and Pan-America.

A senior sergeant in the police, Wagner plans to take a break in Switzerland after the Games.

More than 20 people are at the camp with a couple of New Zealand representatives, including Paralympian Shane Mudgway.

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- Manawatu Standard

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