Rapaport Earns Golden Whistle

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Reaching the 100-mark milestone in any capacity is a spectacular achievement. And Sean Rapaport – USA Field Hockey’s Director of Umpiring and South African Official – did just that!

On October 6, during the men’s Asian Games, he earned the prestigious Golden Whistle Award which is presented to International Hockey Federation (FIH) umpires who completed their 100th official senior international match.

Sean is just the 55th male umpire to add his name to the list and became the fourth male official from South Africa to reach this milestone, behind Deon Nel, John Wright and Peter Wright.

Like many officials, he started as an athlete and made the transition to behind the whistle. While in his teens and playing on a club team he was encouraged to officiate the other teams’ matches and that was when he was handed a whistle. By the age of 16, Sean was umpiring regularly.

He made his way starting out with club and schools, then ventured to the premier league and nationally. He was running the field for many friendlies between South Africa and visiting international teams starting in 2008. Four years later, he received his first international appointment to umpire a series between South Africa and Great Britain in the leadup to the London 2012 Olympic Games. In front of a sold out stadium of roughly 4,000 people, he stood during the anthems next to legendary umpire and friend John Wright with his family and friends in the stands to support. Unfortunately due to an administrative error, the series didn’t officially count, but he still considers that his first international experience.

Sean’s first recorded official appointment was on March 5, 2014, and since then he has officiated in the FIH Hockey World League and FIH Hockey Pro League, at the FIH Hockey Men’s Junior World Cup, Commonwealth Games, Sultan of Johor Cup, Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, FIH Hockey Olympic Qualifiers, FIH Hockey Men’s World Cup, Asian Champions Trophy, Asian Games and in countless test series.

In 2023, Sean was named African Umpire of the Year. Although an achievement that is hard to top, he gets to add another milestone to his resume as he was assigned to officiate at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

“As a lifelong sports obsessive, I’ve always viewed the Olympics as the sporting pinnacle and dreamed of attending one, even if just as a spectator,” commented Sean. “With hockey, as is the case with two of my other sporting loves - cricket and rugby - we are lucky enough to have World Cups every four years. It was a career highlight to umpire at the 2023 Men’s World Cup in India, but the Olympics has always been the ultimate prize.”

Sean adds that Paris is a dream come true and something that has only become a reality due to the years of dedication and sacrifice.

Although his umpiring journey is ongoing, his commitment to the whistle has taken him around the world and allowed him the opportunity to develop lifelong friends. He joked that when he started umpiring, he wasn’t even aware that there was a Golden Whistle. But after learning about it, he added it to his bucket list of things he wanted to achieve.

“It’s great to be recognized and also reminded that I’ve come a long way and contributed to many games,” said Sean. “The personal connections and relationships developed with so many members of the field hockey family over that period is what brings me the most joy and satisfaction rather than the number.”

Sean was presented his official golden whistle by the FIH President, Tayyab Ikram, on January 18 at the men’s FIH Hockey Olympic Qualifier Oman 2024.

Congratulations to Sean on this milestone achievement!