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Poane tennis umpire of note

12 Jun 2024

As the world enjoyed the French Open tennis women’s final between Polish Iga ÅšwiÄ…tek and Italian Jasmine Paolini at the Stade Roland Garros in Paris, France, on Saturday, Batswana tennis lovers’ eyes were on one of their own; Gaone Poane, the line umpire in the final match.

ÅšwiÄ…tek, won the scintillating encounter 6–2, 6–1. Relaxed and composed throughout the game, Poane did not disappoint in all her calls, and her experience in officiating high profile tournaments makes her calls the best.

However the road to officiating for ‘Ms G’ as affectionally called was not so rosy. She started officiating in 2016, following her badge certification in 2015. She attended an officiating school in Stellenbosch, South Africa and after completion  she was certified as a white badge chair umpire.

She got her second badge in 2023 in Pretoria, South Africa and certified as a white badge referee (tournament supervisor). 

When she started officiating, her dream was very much limited to doing tournaments in Botswana, at most South Africa.

After getting her badge in 2015, she was assigned to her first tournament in South Africa, African Junior Championships U14 & 16. 

“I remember being very excited and extremely nervous at this assignment because I felt I was not good enough or ready for such a big tournament,” she said.

African Junior Championships was a breakthrough for Poane, as she started receiving more assignments in Africa, amongst them Billie Jean King Cup, Davis Cup, Africa Cup of Nations, AUSC Games, All Africa Games, and African Youth Games.

Through hard work, she was assigned tournaments outside Africa and was also assigned at Challengers, World Tennis Tour (both Junior and Professional one) and eventually the biggest of tournaments, the Grand Slams.

She has since worked at major Grand Slam events, Australian Open, Wimbledon and Roland Garros also known as the French Open. 

“I did different tournaments in various roles. As a line Umpire, as Chair Umpire and sometimes as Tournament Supervisor,” she said

One other major tournament she has been assigned to is the Tokyo Olympics where she was the only Motswana and one of the two female Africans assigned to work at the Olympics as International Tennis official.

“From a dream of working only in Botswana, my career has grown so much that I have started believing a little bit more that maybe perhaps there is hope for bigger and better. I don’t know where my journey will lead me, but all I can tell you is that I will take one step at a time and follow the wind to see where it takes me,” she said.

Poane said through her journey she hoped to inspire  and show others that hard work, patience and determination do pay off. 

“It doesn’t come without sacrifices of course, I can’t tell you how many birthdays, holidays, family and friend events that I have missed. 

But thank goodness for supportive family that understands,” she said. ENDS

Source : BOPA

Author : Anastacia Sibanda

Location : GABORONE

Event : French Open tennis women’s final

Date : 12 Jun 2024