Category: Interviews

David Grant Q&A

In our latest Q&A we catch up with two-time Group 8 tournament semi-finalist David Grant to reflect upon what has been a life-changing year for him so far – and not because of the ongoing global pandemic…

Hi David, there is only one place to start with the news that – after what must have felt like a long wait – you recently received a successful kidney transplant. Tell us about how this came about and the difference this has made to you.

Yes, that is correct, I received a kidney transplant in early August. This occurred when I received a phone call from the transplant team in the early hours in the morning. I would undergo a number of tests to ensure my body is ready for transplant. If it wasn’t, I would be put on dialysis to make sure my body was in top condition for the operation.

Thankfully, the tests all came back absolutely fine and didn’t require further dialysis. The second I woke up from the transplant operation, I already felt a huge difference within my body even though I was still feeling groggy! It’s amazing what the human body can do.

How tough have the past three years been while you have undergone treatment and what have the biggest challenges been?

The whole ordeal has been tough as my only kidney was no longer functioning and diagnosed as final stage kidney failure.

Dialysis was able to keep me going until a suitable transplant was available. If dialysis didn’t exist, I wouldn’t be here today. The only downside was the physical and mental struggle of the dialysis due to the side effects after the treatment, and this was what I would have to endure three times a week, every five hours.

This also affected my snooker performance due to endurance of a competition or practice. I had to reduce my practice times because of the treatment.

Following your successful transplant, you are now planning to enter the British Transplant Games next year in Leeds. Tell us more about that.

The day after the operation, I contacted the Edinburgh team requesting to participate to compete in the Transplant games, as one of the events they had, is snooker.

My aim is to compete in the snooker event representing Edinburgh in hope of being successful in the event and hopefully bringing home a medal!

How much are you looking forward to getting back to a snooker table competitively and being able to properly prepare and practice for tournaments in the future.

I am very much looking forward to returning to snooker once I am no longer required to be under isolation. I was able to get two weeks practice in just before I go the kidney transplant. This was after five months away from being a table at a time and I was able to make consistent breaks of 30-79 on a five-star table based in Bathgate.

The second I am able to go out and practice, I will be practising four or five times for the first two weeks to catch up and settle down back to three times a week with three hours practice each session.

How did you first become interested in snooker and what made you decide it was a sport that you wanted to play?

I was interested in a very young age. At first it was a hobby as karate was my priority as I was competing nationally and internationally whilst representing Scotland. But after the diagnosis of kidney failure, I was focusing more on snooker because my body would no longer be able to keep up with the physical aspects of karate.

What was interesting was as I focused on snooker more, it became a dedication than a hobby when it turned out I was performing much better when I put practice in. I already made a century within a matter of weeks after my first WDBS event in Hull 2017.

What have been your most memorable experiences as a WDBS player so far?

Being selected as a player representative for Group 8 and seeing WDBS on television alongside the World Seniors Snooker Tour. So many memories to choose from but these two are my most memorable experiences.

What would your message be to Group 8 players who might have any issues that they would want to raise through you?

Please do not be shy in coming forward for any issues of matter you have, no matter how big or small. My role is to represent and support Group 8 and assist with any issues to be discussed with the Board of Directors.

Don’t be afraid to ask for me about any queries, whether big or small!

Away from the baize you have many other interests including karate as you have mentioned – tell us more about that.

I study karate on a daily basis, in my peak before my condition worsened, I was training five times a week, along with hitting the gym and doing 5km runs on a weekly basis.

Under isolation I have taken up cooking and have returned to PC gaming to help pass the time.

What would your message be to anyone with a disability who might be thinking of giving snooker a try and potentially coming to a WDBS Open Day or entering a competition?

Come on over! Every WDBS event organised is amazing to partake in, whether competition or an open day. Don’t be shy, WDBS is for everyone, you will feel very welcome.

 

Thank you to David for his time – we look forward to seeing him and all of our players in 2021!

WDBS & Me: Chris Hornby

This summer marks five years since the formation of World Disability Billiards and Snooker (WDBS) and today we continue our look back on the journey so far by hearing from Chris Hornby, one of the people to have been involved from the very beginning.

Having joined the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA) at the start of 2015 as its Sports Development Manager, Hornby was tasked with helping to re-energise snooker at amateur level – including disability snooker.

A Blank Canvas

Prior to the birth of WDBS, annual tournaments had been held for over 20 years by Disability Sports England, most recently in 2013 at the South West Snooker Academy. But with no event staged in 2014 and few other opportunities for people with disabilities to engage with snooker at any level, Hornby recalls how the initial WDBS team came together during the following year.

“I had been introduced at the Masters within my first weeks in the job to Tim Squires,” said Hornby. “He was a coach with experience of coaching people with disabilities and who would join the initial board. A few months later at the World Championship there was a further meeting with people who had previously been involved with disability snooker events, including Clive Brown who was clearly going to become a key member of the board with his tournament director experience.

“Together with my colleague Nigel Mawer QPM, Vice Chairman of the WPBSA, we both committed to be hands-on involved at this point, together with Tim and Clive. The board was joined by Bob Hill, at the time a qualified WPBSA coach with experience of coaching people with learning disabilities, as well as former Paralympian Jonathan Adams, who competed in the shot put event at the 2012 Games.”

With the team assembled, attention turned to laying down the foundations upon what Hornby describes as a ‘blank canvas’ with no established pre-existing administration in existence.

“It was unclear to us all without solid data if there would be enough demand for events,” recalls Hornby. “We decided to take a punt on putting on a trial event, with the emphasis on offering an open day purely for free coaching and practice for anyone with a disability.

“Jess Cook from Activity Alliance (then the English Federation for Disability Sport) was extremely helpful in the early stages of formation guiding us in the right direction and signposting key contacts. Through Activity Alliance we utilised an existing classification system to shape the first event.

“It was an exciting time to be able to grow something from scratch and five years on I am proud to have been involved in something so unique.”

To Gloucester

The trial event would ultimately become the 2015 Open Disability Snooker Championship, held at the South West Snooker Academy in November. For the team it was a voyage into the unknown in all aspects, with uncertainty as to the number of participants expected and from which classification groups they would represent.

“I remember sitting in my office thinking that we hadn’t got enough players to be able to separate the classification groups,” said Hornby. “Luckily, as would become a trend to this day, many players left it until late in the day and we had enough more players entered and we had the bare bones of an event.”

There was the added pressure of the planned filming of a piece by IMG to be broadcast during the subsequent UK Championship on the BBC, with no stone left unturned in the professionalisation of the event with bespoke t-shirts, medals, certificates and referees recruited to ensure its smooth running.

Ultimately however, the event would prove to be a real success and as Hornby recalls, came with a family feel that continues to this day.

“The open day went well and included a large group from Bristol brought by Bob Hill,” continued Hornby. “Their infectious smiles and the energy that they brought to the snooker room stood out. We had brought the World Snooker Championship trophy from the World Snooker office and the players loved getting their pictures with it.

“One thing we focused on – and still do to this day – is ensuring that each player is properly welcomed to the event as it may feel very daunting coming to your first event. Ruth Mawer (Chairman Nigel Mawer’s wife) was key in those early days and ensured that everyone was welcomed and comfortable within the venue. This is the basis to the family feel of the WDBS, getting to know individuals as people as well as players.

“The tournament itself was a success and IMG did a fantastic job of putting the piece together for television. What I hadn’t anticipated were the characters that we would meet, each with their own story and challenges, but fantastic attitudes to life and competitive edge. In particularly, Raja Subramanian who came all the way from India made the event international and gave it greater creditability. If the television piece hadn’t been so good, I don’t think that WDBS would have grown so much in those early days.”

While Subramanian had travelled across the world to compete however, his opponent in the Group 4-5 final was Tony Pockett, a player for whom his journey was far shorter, but just as monumental for him personally. Having heard about the event on local radio, Pockett entered the event at the last minute and would earn an emotional trip to York for the UK Championship with his performance.

“When he was presented with his medal at the Barbican Centre Tony started crying and was overwhelmed by it all,” recalls Hornby. “He came to York with his wife and he wrote to us afterwards thanking us and saying how much of a mental boost it had given him. He hadn’t played snooker for 10 years and it had been the first time he had been out of Gloucester for 30 years!

“This is what sport and snooker especially can deliver to people. Snooker is overlooked by many as a sport that can offer benefits to its participants but what WDBS has tried to offer its players over the last five years will hopefully at some point change a lot of people’s perceptions going forward.

Global Game

From the outset one of the long-term goals of WDBS has been to see snooker restored to its rightful place at the Paralympic Games, having been contested most recently at the Seoul games in 1988.

A key part of making this goal a reality is the further internationalisation of the WDBS Tour, which began with the introduction to the calendar of the Belgian Open in 2018 and having welcomed an increased number of players from outside of the UK, including Poland, India, Germany and Hong Kong.

Of course, the role played by China in the development of the professional sport over the past 15 years has been unprecedented and in 2018 Hornby, together with Nigel Mawer, visited the Chinese Paralympic Training Facility in Beijing, to meet with representatives of the China Administration of Sports for Persons with Disabilities (CASPD).

“Snooker in China in massive and they have fully embraced the sport,” continued Hornby. “The government and sporting authorities treat it with so much more respect than they do in the UK, investing and putting it into schools and higher education.

“We managed to get a meeting with (CASPD) and subsequently agreed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to work together on future projects for players with disabilities. To see the size of the facilities was fascinating and the WPBSA committed to supply some tables for training. We worked closely with the Chinese Billiards and Snooker Association (CBSA) to ensure they were included in the agreement and could provide coaches if required.”

Each year CASPD organises a week of events to celebrate disability sport and offers a range of sporting activities. Part of this was to be a snooker open day at the CBSA Academy in Beijing, which took place while Chris and Nigel were present.

“It was arranged that CASPD would bus in two groups of around 20 people to the academy and we supplied five CBSA coaches who had been through the WPBSA coaching programme to deliver basic sessions,” added Hornby. “The majority of participants were new to playing the sport but quickly embraced it. CCTV 5, one of the main sport channels came and did some interviews and it was surreal to see our activities featured online the next day.

“The most memorable moment for me during the open day was a gentleman with one arm. He stood off from the tables and every time I tried to engage him to join the others on the table he declined pointing at his prosthetic. I remembered that I had brought a cueing aid device that one of our wheelchair players Mark Parsons had made for WDBS. I got the coach to show him how to use it and showed him pictures of players from the UK who play with one arm like Kal Mattu and John Teasdale and he eventually engaged.

“By the end we couldn’t get him off the table. We told him to keep the cueing aid, he was so happy and said he had enjoyed playing with the others. We told him when we return, we want him to be a top player and I hope that we will see him again in the future.”

To this day Chris remains a key part of the WDBS team and often a first point of contact for new players who contact us about competing in upcoming events, advising on classification groups and encouraging them to come along to weekends and take part.

Check back here at wdbs.info for more content this summer as we look back on our first five years…

Phil Woodwiss Q&A

Among the players who will be competing at this weekend’s Belgian Open will be Skipton’s Phil Woodwiss, who first joined the WDBS circuit approximately 18 months ago and has become a regular on tour.

We recently caught up with the former Open Disability Championship semi-finalist ahead of his return to Bruges to discuss the upcoming tournament, the benefits of playing snooker to him and how important the social aspects of WDBS events are…

Hi Phil, this week we are preparing to return to Bruges for the third staging of the WDBS Belgian Open. How much are you looking forward to returning to the event, having made the trip previously in 2019?

I am very excited to be going back to Bruges. It’s a beautiful place to visit and hopefully I’ll get to see a bit more of it this time.

The Trickshot club we play at is a fantastic venue and we are certainly well looked after all the time while we are there by Olivier [Vandenbohede] and his staff.

Last year you reached the final of the Challenge Cup in Belgium, how happy are you with your game 12 months on?

It’s been a frustrating time; my form has been shocking, hardly winning any matches in the local league or at any WDBS events. However, I seemed to have turned a corner being able to practice more with top quality conditions and players at my friend John’s pub The Crossroads Inn in Keighley, West Yorkshire. So, I am aiming to do well in the event in Bruges.

It has been approximately 18 months since you joined us at the 2018 Welsh Open for your first WDBS event. How much have you enjoyed competing on the circuit to date?

It’s just like being a professional; I love it, each event is different wearing a smart suit, with referees, meetings with the Tournament Director each day before the start of play and even signing the report sheet after each match. Although my request for extra ‘pockets’ on the table in the comments section has yet to be answered!

What have been your highlights on tour during your time with us so far?

I would say the highlight so far was playing in Belgium last year for the first time. I had always in the past wanted to play in a snooker tournament abroad, so doing it together with my fellow WDBS players was great and hopefully we will play in other countries around the world in the future.

How did you first get into snooker?

One of my friends gave me a 3ft snooker table that he was going to throw away. I began to play on that, not really knowing what I was doing but just learning to pot the balls until I got the chance to play on a proper full size snooker table at a local snooker centre in my home town of Keighley when I was 15 years old.

How does your disability affect your snooker and how challenging has it been returning to the baize? Was there a time you thought that you might not play again?

I no longer move around as quickly as I once did, which can be frustrating at times, as I was a quick player and I have lost the flexibility when positioning myself for certain shots. I now use a small extension which screws into the butt of my cue which many players use, which means I don’t have to position myself across the table awkwardly like I used to do before my disability.

Yes, it was quite scary to think I would not play again. As it wasn’t known until after surgery, how I would walk or if at all. To be able to play again after becoming disabled was a great relief and surprise.

How do you feel that playing snooker as an activity can be of benefit to people with a disability?

Snooker is a game everyone can play at all levels of disability. Whatever disability you have you can find a way of adapting yourself with the use of aids to be able to play. It’s great fun as well with learning new skills on a snooker table. You get a great sense of achievement when you see improvements in your game over time. It also helps to take your mind off other things like the many doctors and hospital appointments and gives you something to look forward to.

As well as playing snooker, how important is the social side of these events to you?

To me it’s a very important part of any event. You don’t always have much time during a match or tournament to chat with many people, so when you go out for a meal with several other players and partners, carers or friends you get chance to get to know people.

You have made a number of friends on the circuit including the likes of Nigel Brasier and Dean Simmons, how much would you encourage other players to get together like this?

I would say at each event, go out at least one night with other players for a meal. It helps develop social skills like chatting to people, making new friends and also builds confidence, which all helps to develop trust in others, so that in the future we feel comfortable travelling in groups to WDBS events, especially as we look to play more events abroad.

It also helps to build self-belief and confidence to deal with our daily lives away from snooker events.

What advice would you have for people with disabilities who might be considering entering a WDBS event?

Don’t be afraid – come and have a go! We have all started where we couldn’t pot a ball. Everyone is so friendly and welcoming, just like one big family is how I would describe the WDBS tour. You will make friendships that will last a lifetime.

Simon Berridford and Liam Bairstow smiling

Corrie’s Bairstow to play at Humber Classic

World Disability Billiards and Snooker (WDBS) is delighted to confirm that British soap star Liam Bairstow will be among the players competing at next month’s Humber Classic tournament in Hull.

Liam is best known for his role as Alex Warner in ITV’s Coronation Street, after he famously became the first actor with Down’s Syndrome to be cast in the world’s longest running soap opera just over three years ago.

Away from the studios Liam is also a keen snooker fan and first met the WDBS team last May when he visited the World Championship to watch Mark Selby take on John Higgins on final day. Having kept in touch ever since, we are now looking forward to welcoming Liam to what will be our first-ever weekend competition exclusively for players with learning disabilities.

“I am really looking forward to this event,” said the Bradford-based actor. “I have been a fan of snooker since I have been watching Ronnie O’Sullivan who is my favourite.

“It was amazing to visit the Crucible last year because so many people were there. It was really exciting to meet legends like Stephen Hendry and John Parrott who I remember watching play.

“It was also a lot of fun as we had a challenge in the Cue Zone where if a boy beat me he would get a tour of Coronation Street and he did, so I was able to take him round the set.”

As well as being able to pick up a cue for himself, Liam is looking forward to being able to meet new people during the event which will be held at Hull’s Tradewell Snooker Centre from 17-19 August.

“I love socialising and meeting new people,” added Bairstow. “It’s so nice to be able to talk to different people and then keep in touch through social media. I love Facebook and Twitter to be able to let my friends know when I will be on TV.”

Of his fellow cast members at Corrie, Liam identifies Charlie de Melo, who plays lawyer Imran Habeeb in the soap as a talented snooker player on a set which has welcomed the ‘Weatherfield Snooker Hall’ as a recent addition to the iconic street.

As for his own hopes in Hull, Liam is keeping his cards close to his chest but says that it would give him ‘a very warm feeling’ if he is able to take home a medal from the event.

Entries for the Humber Classic remain open with players with all disabilities welcomed to our free Friday Open Day, ahead of the two-day tournament for our Group 6 players.

Download the entry form now: https://www.wdbs.info/event/humber-classic-2018-group-6/

Image of snooker balls

Watch: New WDBS Video

Watch our new video as we hear from some of our World Disability Billiards and Snooker players about their stories and their experiences at WDBS events.

The video features Mickey Chambers, Robert Craft, Kal Mattu, Niteshk Chavda, Lee Finbow, Lewis Knowles, Christof Niklaus, William Thomson and interpreter Yvonne Thomas.

Thank you to Jamie Hyde for his hard work both filming and producing this video for us.

Watch below or via the WPBSA YouTube channel HERE.

Mickey Chambers Interview

Reigning WDBS Northern Classic (Group 4-5) champion Mickey Chambers was recently interviewed by BBC Lancashire Sport during World Snooker Disability Day in Sheffield.

Listen to the interview here: https://audioboom.com/posts/6856528-leyland-amputee-footballer-mickey-chambers-talks-about-adding-snooker-success-to-his-cv-with-a-title-at-his-first-event

Tony Southern playing snooker shot using rest

Tony Southern Q&A

A name who will be familiar to most with an interest in disability cue sports, Tony Southern will be among those in action at next month’s J&S Trading Northern Classic, to be held at Preston’s Elite Snooker Club for the first time.

We caught up with Tony recently to preview the tournament and look back at his time in the sport…

Hi Tony, we begin 2018 with the J&S Trading Northern Classic in Preston. How much are looking forward to the competition?

Yes, I am really looking forward to the first event of the year. I played a few pro-ams at the Elite Snooker Club back in the early 1990’s when I was at university in Preston, so it will be good to see how the club has changed.

Tony Southern shakes hands with Craig Welsh

Tony reached the final of the 2017 Manchester Classic, narrowly losing out to Craig Welsh

You entered your first WDBS competitions in 2017, notably coming so close to winning in Manchester, losing on a re-spotted black. Can you go one better this year?

Hopefully! After a break from snooker due to injury and other priorities it was good to be back, and Craig Welsh played really well in the event and to beat me in the final.

Of course you are no stranger to snooker having competed in events for nearly 35 years – how do you reflect on your time in the sport?

I’ve achieved a lot since my first national win in 1985 at age 16! I’ve won 24 national disabled championships under the old BSAD/DSE framework (four of which were classed as World Opens when World Snooker was previously involved in the 1990’s), I still hold the highest event break of 87 and had a decent amateur career against able bodied players. But all of that was as a standing player and since I’ve comeback I’m playing from a chair, as that what I’ve done in my other cue sports to good effect.

Tony Southern plays snooker shot against Glyn Lloyd watched by Vic Hartley

Tony plays a shot as opponent Glyn Lloyd and referee Vic Hartley look on

What has competing in snooker events done for your life in general, what positive effects has this had physically and mentally? 

I have made lots of new friends, and it is always nice to see some old faces, and in some cases very old (Glyn Lloyd and referee Vic Hartley) still involved! I have got to know a lot of the top pros as well and travelled the length and breadth of the country. It will be good to play my first international snooker event in Belgium, after playing American pool around the world the last 10 years.

Tell us about your disability, how does this affect your snooker? Has this changed over your career and what challenges has this given you?

I have cerebral palsy which affects my legs, as mentioned above most of my snooker career was spent playing standing up, but as you get older, muscles get weaker and I started using a chair for my other cue sports in 2006. It made sense to do this for snooker too, as I was getting too fatigued walking around table.

Tony Southern places cue ball

Tony in WDBS action at the 2017 Open Disability Snooker Championship in Wolverhampton

You had spoken of retirement in 2017, but posted recently that your health has improved and you are looking forward to continuing to play for the foreseeable future. What are your goals for 2018 and beyond?

I was diagnosed with two prolapsed discs in my back in 2016, which meant I was having real issues with bending to play any shots, even from a chair. It cost me matches and several titles in my other cue sports, so was getting really down about my future prospects, as I always want to be competitive.

However, a series of treatments on my back in 2017 and a recent knee operation have really helped, and I’m now the president of the British Pool Federation, looking after the interests of the American Pool players in the UK, both at a professional and amateur level. So if I have to be at events in an administrative role, why not play as well!

Tony Southern and Andy Johnson point at balls arranged to look like Belgian flag

Tony will be competing at the inaugural Belgian Open in March (pictured with Andy Johnson)

How important is the social aspect of WDBS events, both catching up with old friends and meeting new people?

It is really important, I’m one of the few left from the mid 1980’s still competing and it’s nice to see the older players and referees still going. It is also good to see younger players grow and improve, I recall seeing Daniel Blunn as a young teenager many years ago and telling his father that he was very good and would win lots of titles, which of course he has done!

What message would you have for anyone out there considering entering a WDBS event for the first time?

Basically, come and give it a go, no matter what your standard of play. It is almost guaranteed that your level will improve just being around the WDBS scene and utilising the coaching days, and competing against players on a level playing field in terms of disability. Three days of fun, coaching and events is a great experience for all involved.

There is still time to join Tony and enter the J&S Trading Northern Classic from 2-4 February 2018. Click HERE to learn more and download the full entry form.

Nick Neale plays snooker shot

Neale Celebrates 147 Break

Last month WDBS player Nick Neale achieved a special milestone as he made a maximum 147 break for the first time in his career during practice.

The Birmingham potter, who competes as a Group 7 player at WDBS events following the loss of his sight in one eye at the age of 15, has stepped up his practice time in recent months and is ‘over the moon’ that his hard work is already starting to pay off.

“I had been close to making a maximum before,” said Neale. “I knew that something was coming, not necessarily a 147 but something big.”

“I have been practising a lot and on the day I started to pot a few balls, during a proper frame not an exercise like a line-up, and I got to about ten reds and ten blacks when my girlfriend said that I was on a 147 so I thought that I might as well go for it at that point.

“The black from the last red was probably the best pot I played, stunned it up for the yellow and then with all of the colours on their spots, you don’t really miss them and I think that every ball went into the centre of the pocket. I was dead straight on the final black, I didn’t want to roll it in case I got a kick so I played a little soft stun and it went in. It was a good feeling because it’s something that you always strive for as a snooker player.”

Nick Neale with Allan Morley

Neale, who reached the final of his first WDBS event almost a year ago at the 2016 Hull Open, spent nearly ten years away from the sport after the loss of his sight and only recently decided to start playing full-time again, practising for six days a week. Chasing a first WDBS title, he also hopes to be able to take on able-bodied players in other competitions over the coming years.

“I would like to just to see what I can become again,” explained Neale. “I would like to enter some of the seniors events, professional competitions of possible and see if I can do alright in them. I’m never going to win one but if I could win a couple of matches in the amateur rounds it would be nice to be able to play a top pro and I believe I can do that. Why not? It all depends on the draw because there are a lot of amateurs there like us who are going for the fun and to enjoy it.”

Neale will return to WDBS action at next month’s 888lcd.co.uk Hull Open and entries for the Group 7-8 event remain open. There will also be a Group 6 event for players with learning disabilities, to be held alongside our regular open day of people with any disability.

Learn more about the 888lcd.co.uk Hull Open.

David Church Q&A

World Disability Billiards and Snooker (WDBS) has welcomed new players from across the country to events in 2017, including Norwich cueist David Church.

Having so far competed in both the Manchester Classic and Welsh Open since joining the WDBS field, Church is now preparing for an assault on this year’s Open Disability Snooker Championship, as well as a special trip to Germany later this month for the professional Paul Hunter Classic event won last season by Mark Selby.

We caught up with him recently to talk about his WDBS experiences so far and in particular how snooker has played a crucial role in helping him to manage depression in recent years.

David, you are currently getting ready for next month’s Open Disability Snooker Championship in Wolverhampton, how much have you enjoyed the events that you have played to date?

Quarter-final – with Daniel Blunn

The events I’ve played in have gone very well in my opinion. At my first tournament in Manchester I was surprised how many people with numerous disabilities play the game, not only play, but to a very good standard. I was welcomed by everyone, players, staff and the tournament directors.

I felt I had a great tournament in Manchester, winning my group to reach the knockout rounds and then winning a tough semi-final against Andy Johnson. At 1-1, in the deciding frame, I was 39 behind with 59 on. I thought that was the end of my tournament because my mindset wasn’t there, but somehow my safety game got me into the final. However, I thought that I did well considering it was my first WDBS tournament and I was so nervous as a tournament environment was new to me.

In Wales I was amazed by how many entries we had from all eight groups and the standard everyone played at. I had the high break of 48 which would have been more if I hadn’t had a kick on the green, as everyone knows about in the WDBS! I was seeded no.1 for the knockout stages and my game felt great, however I ran into a very good player, Daniel Blunn, in the quarter-finals who fully deserved the title and the match against me.

I thoroughly enjoy the events, so much that I get so pumped up and practice hard and eat well for the tournaments.

With ref Sarah McManus and partner Olivia

How did you hear about WDBS?

I was playing for Norfolk in the county championships and I got talking to EASB referee Sarah McManus who said I would be eligible to play and so I went for it. It was the best thing that I’ve ever done.

You have impressed in both of the events that you have entered so far, reaching one final and one quarter-final, as well as making the high break in Wales. Can you go all the way and take a title now?

I’ve performed well and I have no doubts that I can win a title. I am not being cocky or arrogant, I just know when I’m at one with the game, I know what to do and do it to what I think is a reasonably high standard. My high break is 82 and I’m getting closer to my first century with help from the SightRight Elite Academy and my coach Stephen Feeney. My dream is to be world disability champion.

Tell us about your disability, how does this affect your snooker?

With former WDBS champion Nigel Coton

My disability is Moebius Syndrome. It is a rare disability affecting the sixth and seventh cranial nerve in the brain which causes facial paralysis and where the muscles in the face and the body aren’t as strong as someone without the disability. At the time I was born, both I and my sister, who has the same disability as me, were the first siblings to have that specific disability in the U.K.

Also the disability that I use to play in the WDBS events is a severe impairment in my leg due to a car accident after walking home from snooker, when two cars crashed and ploughed me through a brick wall. I broke my tibia so as a result I had to have surgery to put a metal rod in to support my leg. This causes constant pain and my balance isn’t as good anymore, which cause me difficulty when playing certain shots.

What role has snooker and the WDBS has played in helping you cope with the after-effects of your accident?

Since the accident I have suffered from depression and ever since been on anti-depressants. I found snooker by mistake, I just hid myself away from the outside world, so my dad took me to the snooker hall and I fell in love with the game. Snooker is my escape from my mind and my depression and I love it.

When I’m at one with the game there’s no better feeling. I’ve never been so emotionally engrained in a person or an object like my snooker.

David Church standing at Crucible Theatre

At the home of snooker

You recently joined us for Disability Day at this year’s World Championship, how did you find the day?

I was honoured to be invited to Sheffield for World Disability Snooker Day at the Crucible Theatre and being able to watch my hero Ronnie O’Sullivan, who I met on the day and previously I watched his exhibitions in Lowestoft. I enjoyed watching the snooker and being in the snooker capital with my girlfriend Olivia and meeting more people from the WDBS.

Before Wolverhampton you will also be in action at a professional event for the first time, the Paul Hunter Classic in Germany. Tell us about what made you enter the event and how much you are looking forward to the experience.

I play at Woodside Snooker Centre in Norwich where former professional Barry Pinches plays and I often play his son Luke Pinches, who is under-16 amateur runner up, as well as a couple of great players who are on the EASB Premier Tour.

They suggested that we should go, so I jumped at the chance to go and play and hopefully give a good account of myself and my ability. I’m really excited to be competing in the amateur round.

What message would you have for anyone out there considering entering a WDBS event for the first time?

On the baize

No matter what your disability is or what standard you are, whether you are a 20+ break or 100+ break player – go for it!

The moments, memories and the weekend away is 100% worth it. It is the best thing I’ve done personally. As well as an amazing weekend full of snooker it is a great opportunity to meet and make friends with people who share the same interests and are in a similar situation.

David will next be competing at the Open Disability Snooker Championship in Wolverhampton from 22-24 September 2017. Entries are still open for the event – please visit here for more information.

Gary Gallacher Q&A

This week World Disability Billiards and Snooker (WDBS) heads to Cwmbran for the first ever WDBS Welsh Open, featuring a record 45 players from all classification groups.

Among those in action will be Gary Gallacher, a player who has been with us since our first Group 7 event in Woking over a year ago and has been an ever-present since.

Like Phillip Murphy who we spoke to recently, Gary is from Wales and so we caught up with him to preview our latest event…

You have been with us since our first event for Group 7 players in Woking last year, can you tell us what snooker and these WDBS events in particular have done for you?

I watched snooker on TV as a child and started playing in my teens. Now in my mid fifties, I still love the game as much as I did all those years ago. Obviously my disability has held me back but the WDBS has now given me a chance to play competitively within a level playing field.

What have you been able to learn from the players that you have played against?

We all have the same passion about snooker and it goes to show that no matter what disability you have, anything is possible.

Photo of David Baker and Gary Gallacher

How have you found the camaraderie at these events, the social side and getting to know fellow regulars like Bob Craft and David Baker.

It has been absolutely fantastic. Coming in as a new player (Woking), I was made to feel welcome straight away and although we are all extremely competitive, we always find time for a chat and a few beers with each other, comparing cues, makes, woods, tips etc. The list is endless!

Tell us about your disability, how does this affect your snooker?

I have ‘Intolerable Diplopia’ (incurable constant double vision). I have had five operations during my lifetime on each eye along with botox injections and various other interventions to no avail. When I play snooker my vision alters with every angle due to also having a horizontal and vertical defect. I am unable to get down to a shot for too long as each eye picks up a different image (they don’t work together), hence I have to line the shot up before I get down to it and play it from memory rather than visually. If I take any longer than a few seconds I have to stand up and start again, this puts pressure on me to play quickly. The greater the distance the more difficult it gets, It’s really frustrating.

You recently joined us for Disability Day at the Crucible, at which your family came with you, how did you find that day?

It was a dream come true to be invited to represent the WDBS at World Disability Snooker Day and was one of my proudest moments. To play alongside such a prestigious event as the World Snooker Championships, tour the Crucible and meet past and present champions was an absolute pleasure. It was something I never thought I would achieve and it’s all down to being part of the WDBS.

Next up we have the first Welsh Open, which will be held in your home country, how much are you looking forward to that?

I can’t wait – counting down the minutes and looking forward to a shorter train journey!

What message would you have for anyone out there considering entering a WDBS event for the first time?

If you are passionate about snooker don’t let disability hold you back. The tournaments, the players, the support and the coaching are second to none. Just get in there and show what you can do.