Walk of Fame: India Hollingworth

Official: Starter’s Assistant

India Hollingworth has been on the start line for some of the biggest moments in athletics, including Mo Farah’s last track race before he made the switch to marathon, and Usain Bolt’s last 100m final.

Female Official in while t-shirt and navy trousers on the track with a clipboard
India Hollingworth officiating at the World Championships London 2017.
Image courtesy of Kermit Taylor / Bahama Athletics

Having taken up athletics at school, starting as a 1500m runner before moving onto high jump and then triple jump, she also began officiating and loved it.

“It’s so rewarding and its addictive. You just want to keep being involved.”

India Hollingworth, Official.

This insight led her to consider her athletics future. The question: “Could I get to an Olympics or World Championships as a competitor?” Was answered with, “probably not, but could I get there as an official…?” She hasn’t looked back.

As a Starter’s Assistant Hollingworth is the ‘voice’ of the Starters, out on the track making sure the athletes are in the correct place, i.e. behind the line, not on it. She’s also the one to hold up the red and black card if someone is disqualified. She has worked at all levels, from schools to Senior Champs to Masters level athletes. The challenges can be varied; “sometimes with 11 year olds its getting them to take their fingers out of their ears if they’ve never experienced a starter pistol before by reassuring them that it’s not that loud, with elite athletes its different.” At 2017 World Championships in the London Olympic Stadium at the start of Mo Farah’s last 5000m race, one of the athletes had their foot over the start line…

The starter wouldn’t start the race. I remember the whole crowd ‘oooohing’ as I had to go out and speak to the athlete and I was thinking “don’t mess up, not at Worlds, not on the BBC with everyone watching.” It’s a performance for the athletes, but it is for the official too. You don’t want to be the official who drops their cards or trips; if you get it wrong everyone will see you.

India Hollingworth, Official, remembering the 5000m Men’s Final at the 2017 World Championships. Sir Mo Farah’s last 5000m before switching to marathon

Hollingworth is currently working towards becoming a Level Four official. Her ambition? “To get to a place where people know me, they know I’m good at what I do, where my reputation precedes me as an official.” Her ultimate dream is to be invited to officiate at the Olympics one day. 

There aren’t huge numbers of young officials and getting the balance can be tough when working full-time. Hollingworth does an average of 18 days officiating across the indoor and outdoor season, including officiating at English Schools’ Championships. Sometimes it’s a one-day stint, sometimes it’s both days across the weekend. “Young officials coming in need to remember that its ok to need a balance, you’ve got to be able to officiate and still go back to work on Monday. It is addictive though, and so rewarding.”

For more information about how to get involved with officiating and coaching follow the links below