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News Details

Date: 7/31/2016

The 2016 IHF Women’s Youth (U18) World Championship presents not only an opportunity for player development, but also for referees. As part of our 4-4-4 series, ihf.info talked to four referee couples from four continents. 

Slovakia 2016 is the third IHF World Championship for Russia’s Tatyana Berezkina and Viktoria Alpaidze, but they have another exciting challenge to look forward to after the bronze-medal match they will whistle on Sunday evening – the 2016 Olympic Games. The Russian duo are a rare breed in that they are professional handball referees, who live solely from whistling EHF Champions League, European qualifications, Russian championship and Latvian championship matches.

ihf.info: Where did you meet? 

Viktoria Alpaidze: It was long, long…years ago – it was in school that we met each other. We were 15, or 14 years old. 
Tatyana Berezkina: We met each other in the sport class. We learned in sport class and we met each other, and handball helped connect us. 
VA: We were playing handball together in the same team. 

ihf.info: How did you decide to become referees together then?

VA: It was such a nice decision because it was like one moment: 'Oh!' It was in university in the first course, and we were going away somewhere and our friend explained to us about refereeing, how it's nice and you can continue your life in handball. And we decided in one moment, we looked at each other and...
TB: Why not?! 

ihf.info: Do you remember your first game together? 

TB: It was 2005 – in 2004 we finished school and then the next year we started to referee. I think it was men's, and that's very important because it was our first game and it was men's. It was the championship, the St Petersburg championship, and that was a really, really tough game because all the players were men's ex-professional players. It was really tough. 

ihf.info: And your first IHF nomination? 

VA: We were nominated two years ago. It was in Macedonia, it was the Youth championship. We were a little bit nervous because it was our first of course. 
TB: But before we had that we had two courses in Granollers, so actually that was the first nomination for the IHF because we had two courses, and then we got the badge, and our first championship was Macedonia two years ago. 

ihf.info: What are your thoughts about the amended rules? 

TB: They are a really good influence on handball because it will be a faster game. 
VA: And it’s more understandable for spectators I think. It's easier to understand for coaches, especially passive play. Now it's easier for coaches and players also. 

ihf.info: Rio 2016 will be your first Olympic Games. When did you find out? 

VA: I was first. I received the letter, I opened it and: 'Oh my god, it's true?! Maybe it's not my name.' I called Tatyana and said: 'Tatyana, sit down please.' After I told her about the nomination, she said: 'Don't joke like this. It's not funny!' 
TB: I was angry, really angry because it's not a joke this way – this is a serious thing. And then Vika said: 'Look yourself!' 
VA: Look in your mail and I push the button! [laughing]
TB: It was a big surprise for us. 
VA: I think for everybody, for every athlete, for every sportsman, for referees, for everybody. The Olympic Games – come on, it's the top of the career, the top of sport life!
TB: Separately, we want to express our deep gratitude to the Latvian Handball Federation for their invaluable help in our preparation for the Olympic Games.