GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Athletes aren’t the only people with Olympic dreams: Someone has to officiate the contests.

When watching women’s hockey from Beijing, keep an eye out for West Michigan native Sara Strong. She’ll be working her first Olympics.

Growing up playing the game, Strong has become a lifelong hockey lover.

“It’s a huge hobby of mine. I love hockey. I eat, sleep and breathe hockey,” Strong said.

Her parents put her in skates when she was 2. She played the game throughout college and was the captain of the Western Michigan club team. While she was there, she tried her hand at officiating.

“I got into it because I stopped playing the game and because it was a great moneymaker in college,” Strong said.

Her first game as an official was in 2007. Now, she’s one of the most accomplished officials in Michigan, male or female. She was the first woman to work a boys MHSAA championship game and has worked the Women’s NCAA Final Four.

Recently, she answered the call that she’d hoped and dreamed would come. She was invited to officiate the Winter Olympics in Beijing.

“It was pretty surreal for me. It’s something I’ve been working for for 15 years and dedicated much of my life, from training and being away from family and friends,” Strong said.

Viewers will be able to see her flying around the ice in her striped shirt, calling penalties and keeping the peace. What they won’t see is all the work she has to do to prepare for each game, from workouts to keep in shape to memorizing the rule book.

“Every league (that) I ref in has different rule books. From high school games, that’s a different rule book from when I work college games. And when I work an international game as opposed to a kids game, that’s a different rule book. That’s four different rule books that we have to know inside and out,” Strong said.

She will focus on the international rules while she prepares for the women’s hockey games which start on Feb. 3.

Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, her two kids and parents will have to watch from home.

“It’s disappointing. I would have loved to have my parents — who have been a huge part of my journey, they’re the ones that got me skating when I was 2 — I would have loved for them to be there, for my kids to be there but at least they can watch me on TV,” Strong said.