TRURO - It's a dream come true for Denise Sondjo - literally.
The 30-year-old Quebec City resident, who grew up in Valley under her maiden name of Caughey, has been selected as a linesman to work women's hockey contests at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. But she still has trouble believing the goal she set for herself back in 2010 is actually about to come true.
"It's definitely pretty cool," Sondjo said. "I've gotten a lot of support from a lot of people and it definitely feels good but it still hasn't set in yet. It's pretty unbelievable."
Sondjo is one of just three Canadian women selected to officiate at the Games, which are scheduled for Feb. 7 to 23. Officials are selected by the International Ice Hockey Federation, based in Zurich, Switzerland. Sondjo was informed over the phone by Todd Anderson, Hockey Canada's director of officials.
Sondjo's father, Eric Caughey, said the honour is something his daughter very much deserves.
"Oh yeah," he said. "She's worked very hard at it. This is a big thing for her and it's quite a thing for Truro. How many people even from Nova Scotia have gone on to referee at the Olympics? Not many I would think."
Sondjo, who works as a purchasing manager for the sporting goods chain Pro Nature, said it hasn't been determined what games she'll work at the event and whether or not she is assigned to elimination games will be based on her performance during the round-robin. Directors watch every move of their officials, from their positioning to the calls they make to how they interact with the players, coaches and other officials.
"They look at every detail and the smallest detail could get you a medal game or it could take it away," Sondjo said.
Sondjo, who just married her husband Michel last summer, has amassed an impressive officiating resume since she started working lines for minor hockey games in Truro 15 years ago. She's worked three women's world hockey championships - including the bronze-medal match at this year's edition of the tournament - as well as a pair of Four Nations Cup and women's world under-18 events. Her international experience is accompanied by several national events and she's a regular at CIS, Canadian Women's Hockey League and midget AAA games in Quebec.
"She's got a busy schedule," Caughey said.
Sondjo said she started thinking seriously about the Olympics in 2010 after working the Four Nations Cup. Until that point she had always relied on her natural abilities to get the job done, but realized to get to the Olympics she would have to take on a training regimen and work harder than ever.
"It's tough because you've got a job and you're referring every weekend but it's been worth it," Sondjo said.
To stay sharp, Sondjo and the other Canadian officials will work a women's game between Canada and the United States on Dec. 30 in Toronto. It'll be a trial run for the crew to make sure each official knows international rules.
Although Sondjo has put in years of work to reach her goal, she was also quick to credit those who have helped her along the way, from officials in Truro to the international scene.
"I'm the one who gets to go but there's ben a lot of people who have helped me get there," she said.
Following are some of the highlights of Denise Sondjo's officiating career:
Selected as linesman of 2014 Olympic Games
Linesman: 2013 World Women's Hockey Championship
Linesman: 2012 World Women's Hockey Championship
Linesman: 2011 World Women's Hockey Championship
Linesman: 2010 Four Nations Cup
Linesman: 2009 Canada Cup
Linesman: 2009 World Women's Under 18 Hockey Championship
Linesman: 2008 World Women's Under 18 Hockey Championship
Linesman: 2007 World Women's Hockey Championship
Linesman: 2006 Four Nations Cup
Linesman: 2005 World Women's Hockey Championship
Linesman: 2008 Esso Nationals (bronze medal game)
Linesman: 2004 Esso Nationals (gold medal game)
Linesman: 2003 Esso Nationals (bronze medal game)
Linesman: 2002 Esso Nationals