AFTER three decades as a badminton umpire, Ian Spear received his greatest honour on the biggest stage of all.
As London hosted the Olympic Games, Ian, from Barnstaple, became only the second Englishman to take charge of an Olympic final.
He capped a great year by being named official of the year at the Journal Sports Awards.
Badminton umpires retire from world level at the age of 55 and Ian, 54, knew London 2012 would be his last chance for the top honour.
"Whether that's fate or being in the right place at the right time, I don't know," he said.
"The whole experience was special – something I will treasure for ever."
Despite years of experience, Ian still felt a few nerves as Denmark lined up against China for the men's doubles match.
"Whatever you do before the final, it never prepares you for the way you feel standing by the side of the court," he said. "The cameras are on you. Inside, your stomach is just churning. You just pray you get through it in one piece and don't make any major mistakes.
"You enjoy the atmosphere but you know you are there to do a job and see fair play."
Ian started umpiring 30 years ago and has been ensuring fair play ever since.
"It was all down to a mate of mine," he said. "I was 24 and he said, 'They are holding a training course for umpires'. I played a bit of badminton and I went along for a laugh. I have done big events all over the world but you never dream of umpiring an Olympic final."
Simon Dafforn, of Bideford Rifle Club, was runner-up, having worked at the London 2012 shooting competition. Football referee Tony Cloak was highly commended after gaining promotion to the Southern League.