Cuesports aiming for four gold medals
Cuesports head honcho believes S'pore will double the number of golds from their best showing
Buoyed by a string of good results and the coaching expertise of former world champions, Cuesports Singapore is gunning for a golden break at next month's SEA Games.
After the Games billiards and snooker draw at the Spex House yesterday, the association's president Christopher Chuah told The New Paper he is targeting four gold medals from the 10 events. Singapore are competing in nine.
Singapore have chalked up just seven cuesports golds at the SEA Games, with their best showing in Vientiane 2009, when they picked up two golds, one silver and two bronzes.
But Chuah is determined to aim high, adding: "We have recruited world pool champions such as Allison Fisher and Ralph Eckert on a short-term basis and we are going to have former world billiards champion Manoj Kothari help us for the SEA Games.
"We hope they can help give our players the edge by training them in matchplay and refining their technique.
"Preparation has been intense and our players have been training every day.
"Our usual suspects for gold are Peter Gilchrist and Aloysius Yapp, who have done well recently, but we have other capable players who can surprise too."
Three-time world champion Gilchrist is the defending men's English billiards singles champion, while Yapp is the reigning World Junior Pool champion.
Gilchrist has won three consecutive SEA Games since 2009 and the new 500-point event should also suit the consummate break-builder, who should not have much difficulty at least until the semi-finals.
Yapp faces a tough route to the men's nine-ball singles finals as he could meet former world champion, Filipino Dennis Orcollo, in the quarter-finals.
BEAT THE BEST
Nevertheless, national snooker coach Stefan Mazrocis said: "I'm happy with the draw. Regardless, we still have to beat the strongest opponents if we want to win the gold.
"I would love for us to meet the four-gold target and we are definitely capable of doing that. We are confident.
"On the snooker side, Marvin Lim, Tommy Ang and KK (Chan Keng Kwang) have been playing well. They are experienced and they all have it.
"We have been really busy preparing, and we will calm down over the next few weeks leading up to the SEA Games.
"I'm an ex-pro, so I've been putting them through the professional regimen where we keep practising keep shots and what will crop up during matches. We practise different scenarios instead of just playing matches."
The nine-ball singles is the only women's event, with local hopes resting on Charlene Chai and Jessica Tan.
They will be up against another Philippine world champion, defending SEA Games champion Rubilen Amit, who had beaten Chai in the 2009 final.
National women's pool coach Allison Fisher said: "It's tricky because they are two very different personalities. It would be the first time Jessica is representing her country at such a big meet and I'm hopeful she will do well.
"Charlene, on the other hand, is very experienced after competing many times internationally. It's a decent draw where they can get their feet wet in the earlier rounds and not meet the strongest opponents immediately.
"It's not really an expectation but I hope we can deliver two medals.
"We are up against world champions but it's a mental game which we can win. We still have to refine our skills and technique, and improve on shot selection, table awareness and management.
"And of course, seeing that it is only a race-to-seven format, we also need some luck.
"We have a month to go and we will work on different areas and get them mentally ready for the SEA Games.
"I hope Singaporeans will get behind them."
Duchess of Doom could be S'pore's queenmaker
She has 15 world titles to her name - 11 in snooker and four in pool - and was the 2009 World Games women's singles nine-ball champion.
In the competitive cuesport world, the name Allison Fisher strikes so much fear that she has been nicknamed the Duchess of Doom.
But the 47-year-old Englishwoman, still challenging for championships on the US circuit, could well be a queenmaker if she develops Charlene Chai or Jessica Tan into Singapore's first female cuesports SEA Games gold medallist.
Fisher's stint will be up after the end of next month, but she hopes to stay beyond the SEA Games.
She told The New Paper: "This job has given me a chance to see what I can do as a national coach. It's an instructor's dream because not many of us can end up being a national coach and train with athletes daily.
"It definitely helps that Singapore is a beautiful country and English is the main language. I would love to keep coming back.
"I like the culture and the people and there is a certain camaraderie after working with people who have been receptive.
"I bring a wealth of experience, having been through the entire process of growing up as a promising talent, working my way up to win 15 world titles in snooker and pool, as well as the 2009 World Games women's singles nine-ball gold.
"The mental aspect of it is very important as well. It is something that has been with me since I was a little girl making my first 20-break and then going on to make my first century when I was 16.
"The standard of cuesports here needs to go up. There are definitely talents and potential out there, especially as pool has been getting bigger here over the last few years.
"Cuesports Singapore is making the right steps as we need to grow the sport here. We need role models such as Aloysius Yapp who have won at world level.
"We need to take them to colleges and get the ball rolling, create stars and get young people inspired."
Cuesports Singapore has also engaged former world pool trick-shot champion Ralph Eckert, and will bring in 1990 world billiards champion Manoj Kothari in the build-up to the Games.
They also have former snooker professional Stefan Mazrocis in their stable of coaches.
Cuesports Singapore president Christopher Chuah hopes the likes of Fisher can stay on beyond the SEA Games to develop the next generation of players.
He said: "This is where we also hope to have more financial support from Sport Singapore, so we can continue to have world-class coaches to raise the standard of our sport."
World cuesports champs aplenty
It will be a gathering of multiple current and former world champions when the SEA Games billiards and snooker competition kicks off on June 6 at the OCBC Arena.
Widely considered the greatest pool player of all time, Filipino legend Efren Reyes, the first man to win the World Championships in eight-ball and nine-ball, will attempt to win the men's carom one-cushion event.
He will be joined by 2011 men's eight-ball world champion and 2010 Asian Games nine-ball winner Dennis Orcollo, who will challenge for the SEA Games nine-ball title.
Their compatriot Rubilen Amit, the 2013 women's 10-ball world champion, will also be looking to regain the SEA Games nine-ball gold she last won in Vientiane 2009.
In snooker, former Asian champion Praput Chaithanasakun (1992 and 1993) of Thailand and current Asian champion, Thor Chuan Leong of Malaysia, will be competing in the men's English billiards singles and snooker singles events respectively.
Team Singapore can also boast of world champions within their ranks.
Aloysius Yapp is the reigning World Junior Pool champion, while three-time world billiards champion Peter Gilchrist, the men's English billiards singles defending champion, has three consecutive SEA Games titles.
33 DAYS TO GO
PHOTO: COURTESY OF SInGSOC
33: Staff of Yayasan Mendaki, a self-help group for the Malay/Muslim community, forming the numbers 33, in conjunction with its 33rd anniversary and for the SEA Games countdown.
Bowler Muhammad Jaris Goh, sprinter naqib Asmin and netballer nur Aqilah were merit award recipients of last year’s Goh Chok Tong Youth Promise award handed out by Mendaki.
Two other athletes, gymnast Aizat Jufrie and sailor Fathin Rasyiqin Mohd Firdaus, clinched gold in another Mendaki accolade — the Special Achievement Award (non-Academic) last year
PHOTO: ST FILE
33: Singapore won 33 medals at the first SEAP Games in 1959, with eight golds, seven silvers, 18 bronzes. The golds came from athletics, boxing, swimming and weightlifting. Singapore boxing’s only winner was the late Ow Mun Hong (above) who beat Myanmar’s Than Tun in the final for the bantamweight gold.
BILLIARDS AND SNOOKER
- When: June 6-10
- Where: OCBC Arena Hall 4 (ticketed)
- On offer: 10 gold medals
- History: 7 golds, 4 silvers, 29 bronzes
Milestones: Bernard Tey, Sonny Tan, Randy Wong and Freddy Soh delivered Singapore's first SEA Games cuesports gold medal in the nine-ball team event at Chiangmai 1995. Peter Gilchrist has pocketed three consecutive golds in the English billiards singles event since 2009.
- The team: Peter Gilchrist, Yeo Teck Shin, Chan Keng Kwang, Marvin Lim Chun Kiat, Bernard Tey Choon Kiat, Tommy Ang Boon Chin, Aloysius Yapp, Toh Lian Han, Desmond Goh Chin Teck, Jessica Tan Hui Ming, Charlene Chai Zeet Huey
- Did you know? Bernard Tey, who was part of the team who won Singapore's first SEA Games cuesports gold medal at Chiangmai 1995, is still in the national team 20 years on. He will feature in the men's snooker doubles alongside Marvin Lim.
- TNP's medal prediction: Chalking up more than two golds will better Singapore's previous best achieved in 2009, and represent some success. With many world-class players, it is a big ask to win 40 per cent of the golds on offer. Seasoned campaigners Gilchrist, Chan Keng Kwang, Marvin Lim, Bernard Tey and Tommy Ang will have to deliver in their singles and doubles events.