July 25 2014 Latest news:
Robin Cottle, Reporter
Thursday, March 6, 2014
Refereeing the Olympic ice hockey gold medal match was a dream come true for Romford’s Joy Johnston.
She took to the ice in Sochi to take charge of Canada’s thrilling victory over the USA and it was the culmination of 14 years’ hard work.
Having played junior hockey at Rom Valley Way, alongside the likes of Romford Raiders captain Grant Taylor, it quickly became clear she was a natural after following in her dad’s skating footsteps.
The 31-year-old said it was an honour to be chosen for such an important match.
Johnston, who went to Albany School in Broadstone Road, Hornchurch, said: “No-one ever expects to be chosen for a gold medal match but my hard work paid off.
“It’s the biggest game I could ever officiate.
“It makes all the 5am training sessions worth it. I have a day job like everyone else, so it’s circuit sessions and lifting weights with a trainer five days a week.”
Despite the grand scale of the occasion, she did not shy away from making the big decisions, making two penalty calls in Canada’s favour in overtime.
It has been quite a journey for Johnston, but one she has had to continue without the guidance of her influential dad.
He died unexpectedly in August 2011 and she admitted it had been an emotional few days in Russia.
Dad Dave gave her the option of ice hockey or figure skating, and she chose the former.
Johnston, who works as a governance and compliance officer for UK Sport, said: “I do wish my dad was around to see this and I’d be lying if I said I haven’t thought about him a lot over the past few weeks.
“For a long time after he died I wasn’t sure I wanted to officiate or be involed in hockey anymore without him because I link it to him.
“I’d always talk to my dad about games. We’d always talk through difficult situations and analyse what the right call was. He always believed in me.”
Johnston, who changed her name from Tottman when she married Scott in October, was the first woman to referee English Premier Ice Hockey League games.
She took up refereeing aged 14 after playing in the Raiders’ junior programme became too physical.
It was the third Winter Olympics she has officiated at after being selected for stints at Turin in 2006 and Vancouver four years later.
In Turin, despite it being her debut on the biggest stage, she was chosen to officiate the historic semi-final between Sweden and the USA – the first time the Americans had failed to reach the final – as well as the subsequent bronze medal match.
Since her big moment in Sochi, when she had to go through a lengthy selection process just to be selected for the Games, messages of support have been flying in. Johnston said: “There’s been a lot of support on Facebook from old teachers at the school. The whole community has been behind me.
“The chief referee of the English Ice Hockey Association met me at the airport and work have also been really supportive.”
Her former PE teacher at Albany, Lisa Wilson, added that the school are “proud of Joy’s achievements.