History-making Masters looking forward to ITF World Cup
Ainsley Walters, Gleaner Writer
'FIRST' and 'only' are synonymous with Joleen Masters as she prepares for the fifth International Taekwon-Do Federation (ITF) World Cup, starting in Montego Bay next Tuesday, August 26-30.
Masters is the first and only ITF-accredited Class A umpire from Jamaica. She is the only ITF female umpire in the Caribbean and, barring one Canadian, the only other in North America.
Suffice to say, she is the only black woman serving as an ITF umpire and is also an internationally certified tae kwon do instructor.
Oh, Masters will also be the only Jamaican officiating at the Montego Bay Convention Centre for next week's historic World Cup - the first time the tournament is being held in the Caribbean and the only time it has returned to the region since its inaugural staging in Orlando, Florida, 10 years ago.
'Auntie Joleen', as every tae kwon do child (some now adults) in Jamaica calls her, started practising the art in November 1987, while in school at DeCarteret College, Mandeville.
"I am from a sport-oriented family. My paternal side, all members from that family was into sports - football, cricket, track and field. My family has competed for KC, Calabar, Wolmer's and St George's," she explained.
"My grandfather, Herbert Masters, I understand the great George Rhoden (winner of two Olympic medals in 1952) couldn't beat him on his worst day, but he just didn't follow through.
"My late uncle, Sydney Masters, was president of Harbour View football club for many years, up to near his passing a few years ago," she added.
As for tae kwon do, her interest was piqued by Technicolor 'karachi' movies.
"Growing up, I was always watching these martial arts movies. I told a classmate of mine at DeCarteret College that it was something I would like to do, and he asked me if I was serious. I said yes, and he told me to go down to Marzouca's in Mandeville and talk to Harrison Chin-Hing (chief instructor and operator of Mandeville Taekwon-Do). There was no turning back from there."
Now a fifth degree black belt, Masters has officiated at four ITF World Championships, two World Cups, and is preparing for her third at home.
"I stopped competing in 2001. It became a struggle to maintain an ideal sparring weight, so I chose umpiring. We didn't have any ITF-accredited umpires from Jamaica," she noted.
Thus began Masters' world tournament assignments - ITF World Championships, Germany 2005; Poland 2007; New Zealand 2011 and Spain 2013.
Her World Cup treks have taken her to Brazil 2008 and England 2012. The 2010 World Cup was cancelled after ITF president, Master Tran Triue Quan, died in the Haiti earthquake that year.
With approximately 10 female umpires in the ITF body, which has membership in 80-odd countries, Masters is just 'one of the guys' and has to attend a mandatory seminar, once per year, in order to retain her accreditation.
At each world tournament, as in next week's, she has to attend a one-day workshop before the first kick is aimed.