Category: Interviews

WDBS Q&A Christopher Goldsworthy

In our latest WDBS Q&A we spoke to our two-time Group 6B runner-up and Belgian Open Challenge Cup winner Christopher Goldsworthy to learn more about his lockdown experience and his snooker journey so far…

Hi Christopher, how have you found the past six months during these most unusual times?

I have found it a struggle, as my routine of playing snooker a few times a week was disrupted because of the whole thing. This pandemic has caused issues for a lot of people, I’m no exception. Because I like routines, this has taken a huge hit on me as everything has stopped for now and trying to adjust to unpredictability is difficult for me.

Have you been able to play snooker during this period of lockdowns and restrictions?

Yes I have. Only the past three months I have been able to pick up my cue. I was able to go to my local club of a Friday evening to practice. I also had some coaching sessions with my coach as he wanted to pick up the sessions again. So that was another avenue of practice to keep me on top of my game.

You enjoyed a memorable debut at the 2019 Southern Classic in Swindon, almost defeating our multiple champion Leroy Williams in the final. What do you remember from the weekend and what encouraged you to enter the event?

I remember Swindon being a very interesting place. On the way there, dad and I were talking about Swindon’s magic roundabout. On the table I was going into the event with an open mind to have a good time. I still remember beating Peter on the final black in the final frame to get through to the final and doing well at the start of that final.

I heard about the WDBS when it was first launched and thinking ‘oh sweet something that I could take part in’ but I found out that there was not a group for me at the time. It was when my family and I were talking about snooker at the dinner table when I decided to check up on the classification section only to find that there was a group 6B specifically for people under the ASD. We rang the organisation the next day about taking part and the next thing you know I made my debut in Swindon.

What has been your impression of the WDBS Tour and how much have you enjoyed the competition?

I’m impressed by how the WDBS is run, the open days are well set out and offer people an opportunity to play with coaches there for advice and support. I’ve got some good experience out of this and I’m very happy about that.

I’ve enjoyed the competitions, especially the Welsh Open where you can play a range of different people with disabilities and get to know them.

You played in your first non-UK event earlier this season at the Belgian Open, winning the Challenge Cup. How much did you enjoy the weekend?

It was my first time outside of UK soil, so it was a different experience for me. I had a really good time with my dad, I was apprehensive in going because I’ve never been abroad before, but I got comfortable as the tournament went on. Looking back now I did have a very good time. A picture of me and dad standing behind a banner was taken and I think that amused some people there.

You always come to your tournaments with your dad, how supportive has he been of your snooker?

My dad is my number one fan. My dad loves snooker as well and is very proud of me competing at this level. My dad also likes talking with other snooker players and their parents/cares as they share their experiences of their children with disabilities. My mum would love to come and support but she gets nervous when I’m playing.

How impressed are you by the standard of players on the WDBS circuit?

I’ve been impressed by the standards and styles of the other players. When I joined I had an open mind on how other people play with their disabilities. There are some good snooker players and I am impressed at their standards and it’s a challenge for me to try and beat them.

How does Autism affect your snooker and are there any particular challenges at events that we do not see from the outside?

With my Autism I struggle with change. For example if I am told I’m playing at a certain time and then it is changed last minute, my anxiety levels rise and I get stressed over the change. I want my mind to stay focused on the game of snooker but with my Autism the anxiety/stress levels get to me when I know it should not but it is difficult to handle at times.

How did you first become interested in snooker and what made you want to pick up a cue yourself?

When I was younger, I always had an interest in individual sports, snooker and bowling for example. With snooker I can focus on my game and myself without and distractions from others which I feel that team games can be susceptible at times with teamwork.

At the age of ten I had an interest in snooker and one of my family members friends gave me a snooker cue that was used by her husband. Near two decades on and I’m still playing snooker using the cue to this day.

What are your biggest snooker achievements so far?

I won a few competitions in a now defunct local league, at the end of their seasons they would do a team knockout. One season our team didn’t do so well but we had good momentum in the knockout to with that competition. During the last season it was running I ended up winning both the singles handicap and singles scratch competitions, I also got a trophy for highest win ratio in the league that season as well.

For WDBS I came second twice (including my debut), and won the challenge cup in Belgium, hopefully I can take that victory to win more in WDBS competitions.

How much are you looking forward to being able to get back to tournaments again when it is possible?

I cannot wait. I miss the socialisation of meeting other people at snooker, I’ve got to know a lot of people playing snooker and to have that taken away has been stressful. When we get back to the swing of things or some normality, I’ll be excited to play against my opponents once again.

What are your off-table interests and hobbies? We hear that you have a black belt at karate…

Computing has been one of my main interests, especially on the video game testing side along with coding on software.

I got my black belt a few years ago, I was doing karate for seven years and in late 2016 I got my first Dan black belt. When the class I usually go to closed down for administrative purposes I sort of retired from the practice as I was busy doing university studies at the time.

I’ve taken up archery over the last year, I usually go at least once a week during the weekends.

How would you encourage other people with disabilities to get involved with snooker?

If you want to try snooker out, the WDBS is a good place to start. They have many classifications that allow for all disabilities. Go visit on one of their open days, speak with the coaches and organisers there, try to introduce yourself to other snooker players with disabilities and have a go. Also for your carer have them speak to other carers as well. They will get a bigger picture on how the WDBS works. It’s a friendly organisation.

 

Thank you to Christopher and we look forward to seeing him and everyone else again in 2021!

Steve Cartwright Q&A

Farnborough’s Steve Cartwright made his debut on the 360Fizz WDBS Tour back at the 2019 Northern Classic and claimed his first gold medal at the 2019 UK Disability Championship by coming through a 24-player field to win the Challenge Cup.

We caught up with the Group 4 player recently to learn more about his snooker journey so far and how ‘lockdown’ has been for him so far…

Hi Steve, how have you found the past six months during the coronavirus pandemic and have you been able to play at all?

Like most people I would expect, it has been a little frustrating, but I have a very positive attitude and a strong faith, so I was kept busy doing all those jobs that we all put off.

Yes I was able to play, but only once so far unfortunately. I popped in to my local club (Sovereign Snooker) to check what safety precautions they had in place and I had a quick practice.

How did you first become interested in snooker and what made you want to pick up a cue yourself?

My parents took me and my brother to Butlins every year from when I was 9 up until 15. I absolutely loved being able to play snooker, pool and table tennis as much as I want and have loved playing ever since.

You are a relative newcomer to the WDBS circuit having entered your first event in 2019, but have been a regular ever since. How did you get involved and how much have you enjoyed the competition?

A good friend at my club suggested I gave it a go. I have really enjoyed the tour, very well organised and all the organisers, venues staff and players and are very friendly. I have built some fantastic relationships with like-minded people.

Group 4 is among our biggest and most competitive classification groups on the Tour. How impressed have you been by the standard of players on the WDBS circuit?

I have to say the standard is very good and was one of the initial concerns of me joining the tour, as I believed it would have loads of ex-professionals knocking in high breaks continually.

There are some players who are very good, but none that I would be uncomfortable playing and in fact I look forward to playing them.

Most players probably don’t know of your disability (sensory neuropathy). Tell us about this condition and the effect this has on being able to play snooker for you…

My condition means the signals from my brain are damaged so they take longer to reach my legs and arms which has the effect of my body going beyond the normal positions so this damages my joints by hyperextending and breaking/dislocating joints.

This means when I play snooker just walking around the table is both extremely painful but also tiring. Balance is very difficult as I do not have a stable base and bridging over other balls is incredibly hard.

What are your off-table interests and hobbies? We have heard that you are rather handy with a golf club as well as a snooker cue!

Yes I used to be an 11 handicap at golf, but difficult now unless I am using a buggy.

I am a sports chaplain at the gym which I attend daily, when open. I also play table tennis with a group of friends from the church.

I am also a stamp / coin collector and like to complete jigsaws mostly on rainy days.

How would you encourage other people with disabilities to get involved with snooker?

I would strongly recommend anybody with a disability to get involved, the friendships you will make with people who know what your going through in their own unique way with a passion for snooker.

Yes you will encounter some testing times both physical and mental, but that makes us stronger as individuals and together we form a fantastic community of people who love snooker.

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.