Ng pot­ting her way to star­dom

Hong Kong hero out to pave way for more women to achieve snooker suc­cess

Arab News - - SPORTS -

HONG KONG: Snooker world cham­pion Ng On-yee has al­ready made his­tory — last month she be­came the first Asian to top the women’s world rank­ings.

Now the Hong Kong pi­o­neer, who em­barks on her world ti­tle de­fense in Malta this week, wants to change the im­age of the male­dom­i­nated game and en­able more women fol­low in her foot­steps.

In­stantly rec­og­niz­able with her large round-rimmed spec­ta­cles, Ng, 27, is coy about her achieve­ment, de­scrib­ing her as­cent to No.1 last month as “a sur­prise” as she only found out from her coach Wayne Grif­fiths.

The mile­stone came af­ter a record 2017 when she won her sec­ond world cham­pi­onship and six other ti­tles. But Ng has no in­ten­tion of stop­ping there — now she is striv­ing to make a mark on the men’s cir­cuit.

Ng be­came the first Asian woman to be in­vited to the men’s world cham­pi­onship in 2016 and, al­though she lost in the first qual­i­fy­ing round, she still saw it as a valu­able learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

She is keen to dis­pel the im­age of snooker as a male-dom­i­nated sport say­ing that phys­i­cal strength does not mat­ter. “It is a mind game,” Ng told AFP.

“To play the best game is to for­get about win­ning and los­ing and try to ap­ply what I’ve learnt from my daily train­ing.”

In Fe­bru­ary she fi­nally over­took long-stand­ing world No. 1 Eng­land’s Reanne Evans — who had held top spot for a decade — af­ter reach­ing the quar­ter-fi­nals of the Bri­tish Cham­pi­onships.

“Reach­ing num­ber one is one step, main­tain­ing the rank­ing is an­other,” Ng said, point­ing out the nar­row points gap sep­a­rat­ing the top play­ers.

“I try not to fo­cus too much on it, be­cause whether I’m the world num­ber one or not, it shouldn’t af­fect my game,” she smiled ahead of de­fend­ing her rank­ing and her ti­tle when the women’s world cham­pi­onship be­gins in Malta on Wed­nes­day.

She is part of a grow­ing band of fe­male snooker stars emerg­ing in Hong Kong — there are re­mark­ably three other play­ers from the south­ern Chi­nese city oc­cu­py­ing spots in the women’s world top 15.

Hong Kong’s best-known men’s player re­mains vet­eran Marco Fu — one of Ng’s idols. He is ranked 10th in the world and a for­mer world cham­pi­onship semi­fi­nal­ist, but the 40-year-old has been forced to take a break while he re­cov­ers from an eye prob­lem.

The sport’s pop­u­lar­ity is also ex­plod­ing in neigh­bor­ing main­land China which now hosts half a dozen men’s world rank­ing events with the coun­try’s Ding Jun­hui, cur­rently the world No. 4, was the first Asian to have reach world No. 1 in 2016.

Ng says 40-year-old Fu is an in­spi­ra­tion and she sent a mes­sage urg­ing him to rest af­ter hear­ing he had un­der­gone surgery for reti­nal de­gen­er­a­tion in his left eye.

Her own trade­mark glasses are due to astig­ma­tism in both eyes and she says the round lenses help her per­fect her aim from a va­ri­ety of an­gles.

Ng spent her early years run­ning around the snooker hall her par­ents man­aged in the work­ing­class Hong Kong dis­trict of Sham Shui Po, stacked with high-rise build­ings and known for its bustling street mar­ket.

Smoke-filled snooker halls are of­ten por­trayed as shady dens fre­quented by tri­ads in Hong Kong movies.

But Ng al­ways felt at home there and en­joyed watch­ing her fa­ther, who was an am­a­teur player.

She par­tic­u­larly loved his snooker out­fit, a sleek waist­coat and bow-tie — a look which Ng her­self has adopted.

“I wished one day I could wear the same,” she re­called and started learn­ing the game from her dad when she was 13.

Her fa­ther trav­eled with her to over­seas tour­na­ments and would com­fort her when she cried af­ter los­ing as a young­ster.

“If I prac­ticed well, my dad would make a mark on a black­board. When there were 10 marks, he would re­ward me with ham­burg­ers and french fries,” Ng told AFP.

Her strict eight-hour a day train­ing sched­ule cov­ers break­build­ing, shot se­lec­tion and fit­ness at the Hong Kong Sports In­sti­tute, al­though Ng still finds time to play with her dad at his snooker club.

It was a dif­fi­cult tran­si­tion from teen stu­dent to pro­fes­sional, says Ng. She gave up school aged 17 to choose what she calls a “dif­fer­ent path.”

“Some­times I felt quite empty when speak­ing to some of my friends, es­pe­cially with the top­ics out­side of snooker,” she told AFP. But with the sup­port and un­der­stand­ing of her peer group she man­aged to adapt.

Ng re­turned to study­ing last year to com­plete an ad­vanced ac­count­ing diploma, but says snooker is still her pri­or­ity.

She sees her­self as an am­bas­sador for the women’s sport.

“Hope­fully I can let peo­ple know snooker is a healthy sport and ladies can also play snooker — even with glasses.” —

FO­CUSED: Ng On-yee has won the world cham­pi­onship twice and six other ti­tles. The 27-year-old is cur­rently pre­par­ing to de­fend her world crown in Malta this week, where she is the big fa­vorite. (AFP)

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