Star’s sensational rise hits new high
When he first picked up a squash racquet as an inquisitive 11-year-old, Antonio Tawana never imagined he would one day be the best in Botswana.
However, the sporty youth excelled from the very beginning and within four years was already playing for the national team.
The 23-year-old’s success story hit a new high in October when he rose to the top of the local rankings.
Tawana was the one bright spark for Team BW at last month’s disappointing African Senior Championships in Zimbabwe, when Botswana finished 9th out of ten nations.
Shrugging off the team’s failure, the fleet-footed youngster won many admirers for his performance in the individual category, winning three of his five matches to end the comp in position 17 out of 38 players.
It was good enough to earn Tawana an invitation to the ‘Lagos State International Squash Classic’ in Nigeria, a tournament scheduled for January.
“I had a great experience in Zimbabwe because I got to play with different people from different countries who play different styles; it was a learning curve!” he notes, adding the lessons learnt will stand him in good stead as he builds towards his dream of making it into Africa’s Top Ten list.
Reflecting on his career, Tawana, who earns a living as a coach, supplementing this income by helping out in the family business, tells Voice Sport, “For me to develop a passion for squash, there was a coach who visited our school – Tshiamo Primary School – and invited all those who had an interest in taking up the sport to come forth.
“I came forth as I had always been curious about the particular sport and the rest was history!”
It is a history filled with impressive, immediate results.
“My premature career bloomed from the onset as I always got position one in most of the tournaments I competed in when I was at Nanogang Junior Secondary. In 2015, I was selected for the national team,” reveals the Kanye native, adding his biggest highlight came a year later, when he won the Randburg Junior Open in South Africa.
By 2019, he was training in America.
“For the US opportunity to come about, I was competing at a tournament titled ‘Diamond In The Rough’ which was sponsored by a USA-based Motswana, Lefika Ragontse who ran Squash academies there. I was one of the lucky ones to be afforded that chance. A year later, I got the third position at The Grand Central Squash Tournament which was held in New York,” says Tawana, who counst American-based Theo Pelonomi and South Africa’s top ranked player, Dewald van Niekerk as his toughest opponents.
Now back training at the National Squash Centre, Botswana’s new number one is ready to start the latest chapter in his remarkable story.