Team Singapore

Aloysius eyes Singapore's first pool gold

That's the aim of Singapore's 19-year-old pool king Aloysius Yapp

Aloysius Yapp can no longer get a game when he walks into a pool hall in Singapore.

It's the price of fame, it seems, after the 19-year-old made headlines last November, when he won the Nine-ball World Junior Pool Championships in Shanghai.

"I do get recognised when I enter pool halls, and it's hard for me to get a game. So, I just have to play with the other national players," said Yapp, who is known as "Ah Loy" to his peers.

But, while Yapp is a celebrity among the cuesports enthusiasts, he is still just an ordinary teenager when he walks on the streets.

Cuesports in Singapore is still largely about three-time billiards world champion Peter Gilchrist.

Come the 28th South-east Asia (SEA) Games next month, Yapp is determined to change that.

Cuesports Singapore will be taking part in nine of the 10 events at the OCBC Arena during the Games, with the aim of winning at least four gold medals.

Yapp, who will take part in the nine-ball singles and doubles events starting June 6, is keen to help fulfil that target and become just the second Singaporean, after Chan Keng Kwang in 2005, to capture a gold medal in pool.

It's his first foray into the SEA Games, having been passed over by the Singapore National Olympic Council in 2013.

At the time, he didn't have enough overseas results. Now, the Singaporean has over 40 local and overseas tournament victories to his name - the biggest, of course, being the world junior title.  

"The SEA Games will definitely be tough, but I'm going for gold," said Yapp, with the same focused expression he wears at the table.

"My toughest opponent would be (Filipino) Carlo Biado, in the semi-finals. But I've beaten him once before (in 2013). So, if I get there, I'm confident I can do it again."

Yapp's preparations have been nothing short of thorough.

Last month, he finished 16th among 217 participants at the Eurotour 
Nine-ball Championships in Portugal.

At home, he practises eight to nine hours a day, every day.

He stays at the same table from 12pm to 7pm at the OCBC Arena and, when the air-conditioning gets turned off, Yapp retreats - alone or with a partner - to a pool hall in town for another two hours of practice.

To sharpen his game, Yapp's coach Paul Pang roped in former Asian Games gold-medallist Kuo Po Cheng from Taiwan as Yapp's sparring partner for a few days earlier this month.

Learning from Kuo, 37, a two-time runner-up at the World Nine-ball Championships (2005 and 2010), has been a treat for the Singaporean.

"He gave me tips on playing smarter, safer, and worked with me on the small details," Yapp said.

"He's still damn good. We split victories between us; I didn't keep count."

INSPIRATION

It was players like Kuo and Wu Chia-ching that Yapp drew inspiration from when he first fell in love with the sport, at the age of nine.

"I was channel-surfing one day, and there was no football on. Then I chanced upon some nine-ball tournament, and the game caught my interest.

"I loved the colourful balls, and the game seemed so fun.

"So I asked my mum to bring me somewhere to play the game.

"She did some research, bought me a cue and found someone (Pang) to teach me.

"At first, I played for leisure. It was only when I won the Singapore Under-19 nine-ball championships in 2010 that I took the sport seriously."

The following year, at the age of 15, Yapp put his studies at St Patrick's Secondary School on hold and played pool full time.

His journey has already seen him beat Filipino pool legend Efren Reyes.

Yapp, who is taking his O-Levels at Coleman College, said he is far from done.

"Pool is something I want to play forever," he said.

"The goal is to become as legendary as Reyes."

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