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An Olympic dream come true

Rick Hunt
Rick Hunt, who coordinates the teaching labs for the Department of Biomedical and Molecular Sciences at Queen’s, will be taking part in the Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, as a referee for long-track speed skating. (University Communications)

Rick Hunt’s resume as a long-track speed skating referee is impressive. He has officiated at seven World Championships and 11 World Cup events.

That resume, however, is about to get even better as he will soon be officiating at the biggest competition of them all – the Winter Olympics.

Mr. Hunt, who coordinates the teaching labs for the Department of Biomedical and Molecular Sciences at Queen’s, will soon be heading to Pyeongchang, South Korea, where the XXIII Olympic Winter Games will be hosted Feb. 9-25.

It’s the highlight of his career, he says, but when he received the invite back in November, he kept it a secret – even from his wife. He just wanted to be sure, he explains. That same day he had been told that he would be the chief referee for the final World Cup race before the Olympics as well as the World Junior Championships that will follow the Winter Games.

It all seemed a bit much, and there is that friend who is a bit of a prankster.

“I just wanted to make sure it was authentic,” he says with a smile.

But, as he soon found out, it was all true.

Now, the magnitude of what lies ahead has sunk in.

“It took a while. It took a couple of weeks for me to realize,” he says. “Everybody else was excited for me and I guess I might have been in a mild state of shock. I had so many things going on that it really didn’t hit me until two or three weeks afterward, what was going to happen. It’s only been since Christmas and refereeing the Canadian Olympic Trials that it has hit me – I’m going to be refereeing where these athletes going to be competing. And now I am excited.”

This delayed reaction also has something to do with Mr. Hunt’s nature. He’s laid back, easy-going, not one to be flustered easily. He’s also meticulously organized, pays attention to the fine details and believes that being a professional at all times is of the utmost importance. It all makes for an excellent referee for speed skating. This has been instilled from the very beginning of his career by his mentor Guy Chenard – always run every competition like it is the Olympics.

The role of the referee is similar to that of a tournament convener in many other sports, he explains. Creating schedules and pairings, making sure the races are conducted in a fair and timely manner. He also must handle any complaints from team officials. This sometimes can be heated, but, once again, Mr. Hunt’s personality is a perfect fit.

“You can stand there, scream and holler at me all you want. Then it’s ‘OK you said your piece, I agree with you. There’s nothing I can do. That’s the way the rules are written but if you can get them changed, I’ll help you out with it,’” he says. “I’m not intimidated by anyone and I’m not offended by a passionate coach saying their piece about what they think really happened and their side of things. It’s their job to stick up for their skaters.”

Mr. Hunt first became involved in speed skating about 25 years ago when one of his sons wanted to see the provincial short-track championships being hosted in Kingston at the time. Both his sons were hooked and he along with them.

As the boys grew, long track became a better fit. He was competing as well and at one event he offered to help a referee who was working on his own. He found that he enjoyed it more than skating. His career then “evolved” from there, climbing the ladder until, now, he will be officiating at the pinnacle of all sport.

Laid back he may be, but he knows that when he enters the rink and his dream becomes a reality, the moment will have a profound effect.

“When I walk up the stairs onto the infield I guarantee there will be tears in my eyes,” he says. “I am a very emotional person that way.”

There has also been some extra good news recently as his wife, Audrey Hunt, the Departmental and Financial Administrator for the Department of Emergency Medicine, has been accepted as a volunteer at Canada House at the Pyeongchang Olympics.