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2018/19 World Disability Billiards and Snooker Season Review

Last month’s Derby Open at the Cueball Derby signalled the end of the 2018/19 World Disability Billiards and Snooker season; the biggest and busiest campaign yet.

Starting back in July, the circuit visited several venues in the UK and beyond with a record number of tournaments hosted and entries taking part. Here we look back on how the season unfolded and what the main talking points were…

Groups 1 & 2

New and familiar faces triumphed in the competitive wheelchair section, but the star performer throughout the year was Daniel Lee, who added a trio of titles to his portfolio.

Londoner Lee started off by claiming the curtain-raising 6-Red Welsh Open in Cwmbran; an event open to WDBS competitors from all classifications. At the time, by his own admission Lee’s best tournament victory in snooker, he ousted Aslam Abubaker in a thrilling all-wheelchair final that was a fine showcase for the group.

Further honours came at the inaugural staging of the Champion of Champions and when he defended the Northern Classic in the new year. Collectively, these efforts saw him named as the first WDBS Vic Hartley Player of the Year at the Winter Garden in Sheffield during this spring’s World Professional Snooker Championship.

Elsewhere in the division, Abubaker and Tony Southern both claimed maiden main event gold after being pipped in the past. Abubaker won the Open Disability Championship when he defeated Shahab Siddiqui in the final, while Southern reversed last year’s outcome after getting the better of host nation native Kurt Deklerck at the Belgian Open in Bruges.

Groups 3, 4 and 5

Due to increased numbers and re-structuring, ambulant players contested in both individual and multi-group competitions throughout the year. Despite the changes, several of the circuit’s big names continued to collect top honours.

One of the most intriguing sagas has been the ongoing rivalry between Daniel Blunn and William Thomson. At the Open Disability Championship, Thomson made it three out of three final wins against his adversary, but at the Champion of Champions a few weeks later Blunn ended that hoodoo.

Blunn bolstered his CV yet again in the new year when eliminating the challenge of new finalist Peter Yelland to win the Northern Classic at the Hazel Grove in Stockport and then defending the Belgian Open at the Trickshot after a victory over another former champion in Raja Subramanian from India. These wins mean Blunn now has a record eight WDBS main event titles.

Mickey Chambers and David Church also increased their title tally; Chambers defeated Church in the Northampton final and David Weller to retain the Northern Classic, while Church became the Group 4/5 Champion of Champions victor when he quashed late replacement David Moore’s hopes in the climax.

There was, however, a new addition to the roll of honour when John Teasdale won the Group 3 title in Stockport after prevailing over fellow first-time main event finalist Joe Hardstaff. In a keenly contested encounter, Teasdale chalked up three consecutive frames from 2-0 down to emerge successful.

Group 6

Five different players won main event gold throughout the season in the learning disabilities category.

Peter Geronimo announced himself on the scene by claiming the first Group 6 exclusive event at the Humber Classic on debut in August. The focus, though, has been on serial winner Daniel Harwood who scooped a quartet of triumphs at the Open Disability Championship, Champion of Champions and Hull Open, before the Northern Classic in the new year became his seventh career WDBS title overall.

From November’s Hull Open onwards the Group 6 division was split into two sub-categories – 6A would represent players with learning disabilities whilst 6B for those with autism spectrum disorder. Mike Busst was the first player to take advantage of this new opportunity when he defeated Faisal Butt to taste glory in East Yorkshire. Butt recovered from that setback, though, to avenge his defeat to Buust at the Northern Classic and then by seeing off David Mac in the final of the Southern Classic too.

Also, in Swindon, Leroy Williams bettered the three previous final appearances he had made earlier in the season when eventually defeating debutant Christopher Goldsworthy in an engrossing 6B final at Jesters Snooker Centre. It was Williams’ second WDBS title.

Group 7

Nick Neale was undoubtedly the star performer in the visual impairments classification as he collected four main event titles.

The Group 7 season started at the Barratts Club in Northampton where Paul Smith earned his fourth career WDBS title after overcoming maiden finalist, Ron Allen, in the final of the Open Disability Championship. Later in the campaign, though, Neale would surpass Smith’s tally to become the most decorated player in the division.

Neale’s winning streak began in Gloucester when he got the better of rival Smith in the Champion of Champions final. He backed that up with triumphs at the Hull Open (defeating David Baker in the final) and then the Southern Classic (defeating Allen in the final) to make it a high five of titles at this level. He finished his campaign on a positive, too, by defending the Derby Open (7B) against former winner Mike Gillespie in an entertaining final that went to a deciding frame. Gillespie was Neale’s fourth different final opponent in as many competitions.

Group 7 competitors were divided into two separate categories for the first time in Derby, depending on the severity of their impairment. The format yielded a new champion as Gary Gallacher defeated Bob Craft to become the inaugural 7A winner.

Group 8

Two new champions were discovered in the hearing impairments category, but the season revolved around Shabir Ahmed who made all five Group 8 finals; winning three of them.

Starting in Northampton, Ahmed denied debut finalist Nikolas De Whytell to win the Open Disability Championship. His momentum, however, was halted by Lewis Knowles at the following month’s Champion of Champions. Having suffered a trio of final disappointments at the hands of Ahmed in the past, an epic 5-4 victory over his rival in Gloucester was certainly a sweet relief for Knowles.

Ahmed bounced back from this loss when overcoming debutant Mick Chew at the Hull Open and then resuming his rivalry – and success – with Knowles at the Southern Classic in Swindon. Looking like business as usual in Derby, though, Ahmed was stunned by newcomer Nicholas Cash, who produced an upset to overhaul him in the final. Earlier in the event Cash had also eliminated Knowles and a former WDBS main event winner in Blake Munton.

His achievements on the circuit gained Ahmed cross-sport recognition as he was nominated and came third at the 2018 Deaf Sports Personality of the Year Awards. Contesting alongside Lee, Blunn and Neale, Ahmed will appear at the Crucible Theatre during this August’s ROKiT World Seniors Snooker Championship for a dedicated session of play that will highlight and promote disability snooker.

A New Campaign Awaits…

We don’t have to wait much longer until the new 2019/20 360Fizz World Disability Billiards and Snooker season gets underway with the Humber Classic taking place at the Tradewell Snooker Club in Hull from 28-30 June. For the first time, the popular venue will host a WDBS event that is open to players with physical disabilities (Groups 1-5), as well as welcoming back entrants with learning disabilities (Group 6).

Southern Classic Open for Entry

Entries are now being accepted for the all-new Southern Classic which will be held at Jesters Snooker Hall in Swindon from 22-24 March 2019.

The event will be the first of 2019 for people with visual and hearing disabilities (Groups 7-8) and will also incorporate a two-day tournament for players with learning disabilities (Group 6).

Once again the weekend will begin with a day of coaching and practice at which people with all disabilities are encouraged to get involved and participate in snooker. The day will be supported by our team of official WPBSA World Snooker coaches who will be on hand at the Go Green Energy Coaching Zone to help people enjoy the day.

The deadline for entries is Friday 15 March 2019.

Winners Crowned at Champion of Champions

World Disability Billiards and Snooker (WDBS) successfully staged its prestigious new Parris Cues Champion of Champions event for the first time last weekend in Gloucester.

Held at the South West Snooker Academy, the event brought together 24 players who competed across six competitions representing each of our regular disability classification groups to determine this year’s overall champions.

As well as prize money, the players were competing for the magnificent Nick Oliver Trophy (learn more about Nick and his story here), as well as a place at next year’s World Snooker Federation Championships in Dubai, with travel/hotel costs to be paid by regular WDBS sponsors 360Fizz.

Physical disabilities

There was victory for Daniel Lee in the Groups 1-2 wheelchair competition as he defeated the experienced Tony Southern 4-2 to win his biggest WDBS title to date.

Already a three-time WDBS champion coming into the event, Lee narrowly defeated two-time WDBS champion Graham Bonnell 3-2 in his opening match before edging out Craig Welsh and Tony Southern to qualify for the final, while Southern also survived a close match with Bonnell on his way to securing second position in the group.

It was a close final in which Tony threatened to a force a deciding frame, but it was Lee who was able to pot the final colours and secure victory.

“It has been a great honour to be part of this event this weekend,” said Lee. “I am very happy. The prize on offer [a place in Dubai] was definitely in the background and it was a very tight, tough match in the final. Tony has been around a long time and it became a bit of a battle, but I am just happy to get through it.

“It [a place at the WSF Championships] has given me motivation to practice for sure. To be able to go out there and represent WDBS and show what people in a wheelchair can do, I will give myself every chance and practice hard. Realistically it is going to be tough for me but I’m going to enjoy the experience and I’m grateful to be there. I just want to go over and promote this brand [WDBS] and what we are all about. We will conduct ourselves in the right way, enjoy it and give it our best shot.”

In Group 3 there was a win for Daniel Blunn who became the first player to reach the milestone of having won six WDBS titles following a 4-2 victory against Scotland’s William Thomson in the final.

The event marked a significant turnaround for Daniel who lost 4-0 to Thomson in the final of last month’s Open Disability Snooker Championship in Northampton, his third final loss to his rival since 2016. This weekend however saw Blunn record a comfortable 3-0 victory against the Scot in the round robin group stage, before coming out on top a 4-2 winner in the overall group final to book his place on the plane to Dubai next spring.

“I know I have won five tournaments prior to this but I have been beaten by William in three finals so obviously I am glad to win this one, it is my time,” said Blunn, who has cerebral palsy. “I’ve beaten him before in group games here and in Preston, but never in a final so it was good to get one back I suppose. He didn’t play as well as he can to be honest and I didn’t either, but I was able to pot the crucial balls and crucial times, stay in front and got through.”

Earlier this year Daniel became the inaugural winner of the WDBS Belgian Open in his classification, a trip that was actually his first ever overseas and he can now look forward to his second snooker tournament outside of the UK in Dubai.

“I will have to bring some sun tan lotion, it’s quite hot so I hear!” added Blunn. “It will be very tough but there are six pockets, we have all got tips on the end of our cues, let’s have a go and see what we can do. I don’t see why we shouldn’t be there. There’s no reason why we can’t compete among able-bodied people, everyone can play snooker.”

Meanwhile in Group 4-5 we saw David Church come through the field to win his second WDBS title with a 4-1 victory against David Moore.

Having been invited to the event as a late replacement for India’s Raja Subramanian, David Moore impressed in the round robin group stages by winning both of his matches to top the group. Despite taking the opening frame in the final however, it was Church, who had already come through a long match on Sunday morning against Andy Johnson to qualify for the final, who took the next four to win his first title since the 2017 Open Disability Snooker Championship.

“I didn’t really play well all weekend really, but I kept hanging in there, doing what I could do and I managed to get the win on the weekend,” said Church. “To come through a four and a half hour match in the final knowing that whoever won would get to the final, I was happy I got through and that I had given myself a chance. Now I’ve won this one, I have got a trophy to take home and a plane ticket to Dubai so I am very happy.

“Dubai will be the furthest that I have ever travelled, it’s amazing whether I win a match or not. I am not going to go there expecting to win, I am just going to play and if I win a game I will be happy and if not it’s a great experience.”

Groups 6-8

In the Group 6 classification group for players with intellectual disabilities there was a fifth WDBS title for Daniel Harwood, who defeated fellow Liverpudlian Andrew Galley 5-1 in the final. The pair had already enjoyed a high-quality match in the round robin stages which saw four breaks made over 50 including a tournament-high run of 77 by Harwood on his way to a 4-2 win and it was the serial champion who was able to repeat that victory in the final.

In Group 7 there was a third WDBS title for Coventry’s Nick Neale, who whitewashed four-time champion Paul Smith to complete a dominant weekend during which he dropped just two frames in Gloucester.

“I am over the moon because there is such a big prize at the end of it,” said Neale. “It has been a long couple of days but I am really happy to win. It means the world to me because it has been a long road back for me to pick my cue up again, I didn’t think that I would ever play again but my girlfriend and my dad gave me a kick up the backside and said I was too good not to play. This is a dream because I have put a lot of hard work in and to be going to Dubai to play in such a great event, I am really looking forward to it.

“My goal coming into the weekend was to try to play good snooker and to get to the final and then I thought to myself over the best of nine, even if you go two or three behind you can still get back into the match. The atmosphere out there was great and to be back playing in an arena like that was definitely a good buzz.”

The final match of the weekend to finish was a dramatic Group 8 final which saw Lewis Knowles edge out Shabir Ahmed 5-4 to win his first ever WDBS title, after three previous final defeats to Ahmed during the past 18 months.

The tone was set in the opening frame which was won by Knowles on a re-spotted black, with the underdog moving into a 4-2 lead after the first six frames. Back however came four-time WDBS champion Ahmed, a clearance of 22 in frame eight bringing him back level and forcing a deciding frame for the title.

Having suffered close defeats to Ahmed in the past, it was impressive to see Knowles perhaps play his best frame of the match when it really mattered, eventually coming through on the colours to secure the title and become this year’s Champion of Champion in the deaf classification group.

The event was sponsored for the first time by Parris Cues, with founder and renowned cue maker John Parris on site throughout the weekend and on hand to present the trophies. Each player received their own trophy to take home and keep in recognition of their achievement this year, as well as being presented with the stunning Nick Oliver Trophy, a perpetual trophy which will have the names of each of our winners engraved on its base following this event.

WDBS would like to thank John for his support and also Cathy and Vince, who joined us on what was an emotional final day of the event for both as their late son Nick Oliver was remembered during the presentation of the trophy.

We would also like to thank Tony Cannon, who volunteered his services to help us provide live streaming of a WDBS event via YouTube for the first time, while regular helper Michael Day also provided excellent commentary during the weekend, supported by other members of the WDBS team and players. You can watch back all of the footage from the weekend here.

Finally, we would also like to thank all of the players, officials, supporters and our venue at the South West Snooker Academy, which of course was where the WDBS began with its first event back in 2015. The continued growth of the organisation owes its thanks to the support that has been received by many and we will continue to provide more and more opportunities for disabled people to play cuesports in the future.

View full tournament results from the competition via MySnookerStats here.

View event photos at our Facebook page here.

View the updated WDBS Roll of Honour here.

Chris Lovell visits Stoke Mandeville

New Initiative Boosts Wheelchair Snooker

The WPBSA is today delighted to announce a new initiative together with WheelPower which has already seen snooker tables installed in spinal units and special schools across the country.

Based in Stoke Mandeville, the home of the Paralympic movement, WheelPower is the national charity for wheelchair sport and has been providing opportunities for people with physical impairments to participate in sport at all levels for nearly 70 years.

One of the founding sports at the Paralympic Games included as recently as 1988, snooker continues to offer significant benefits to people with disabilities and has seen new competitive events created during the past two years by the WPBSA via subsidiary body World Disability Billiards and Snooker (WDBS).

To help encourage more wheelchair users to play snooker and to demonstrate how snooker can be a good leisure activity for patients during rehabilitation or with visiting family, working together with WheelPower and National Sports Director Chris Turner, the WPBSA has funded the installation of Little STAR snooker tables in six spinal units and seven special schools.

The project has been supported by WPBSA Coaching Consultant Chris Lovell, who has visited each site to show both WheelPower Physical Activity Advisors and teachers how to engage people in snooker.

Chris Lovell visits Stoke Mandeville

Chris Lovell said: “To visit Stoke Mandeville, the birthplace of the Paralympic Movement was a fascinating experience and to witness the Great Britain wheelchair basketball team in training was a sight to behold, each sportsperson striving to overcome their personal challenges through sport.

“This mirrors everything that WDBS is looking to achieve in its vision to see snooker return to the Paralympics. The partnership with WheelPower is a key aspect of this goal and will help make snooker accessible to a wider audience and support the overall growth of the sport.”

Chris Turner said: “Our new partnership with the WPBSA is fantastic and will enable more wheelchair users and people who are spinal cord injured to take part in snooker in a convenient setting which is accessible for them.

“We want to showcase the wide variety of sports that wheelchair can take part in and support them to find and take part in an activity they love.”

The WPBSA will continue to support all sites and monitor patient engagement during the next six months, with further development stories here at WPBSA.com

The next WDBS event will be the Open Disability Snooker Championship 2017, which will be staged at the Golden Cue Snooker Club, Wolverhampton from 22-24 September. The weekend will include both an open day for players with all disabilities, as well as a two-day tournament for players with physical disabilities including wheelchair users.

For more information and to enter the tournament visit WDBS.info

J&S Trading to Sponsor Manchester Classic

World Disability Billiards and Snooker (WDBS) is delighted to announce that the upcoming Manchester Classic will be supported by J&S Trading, as the headline sponsor for the event.

J&S Trading is a company based in St Helens that specialises in recycling mobile phone parts and accessories. Operating for over 20 years, the business has worked with many international, national and local repair centres offering an outstanding service for its trade clients from small retail shops to multinational businesses repairing devices directly for the mobile networks.  J&S is currently thriving in the buyback broken LCD market within the UK and Europe, recycling over 250,000 pcs per annum.

The event, which will now be known as the WDBS J&S Trading Manchester Classic 2017, will be staged during 10-12 March 2017 at Q’s Sports and Entertainment Bar, Manchester. There will be competitions held for players from Groups 1-6 across the three days, with a Friday open day at which players with all disabilities are encouraged to attend and try snooker.

Simon Berrisford of J&S Trading said: “J&S Trading is proud to be sponsoring the J&S Trading Manchester Classic 2017. We would like to wish all of the players involved in this fantastic event the very best of luck. The future for snooker is on the up and it is great to see players of any ability, gender or disability welcomed by the WDBS and World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association.”

The J&S Trading Manchester Classic will be the first of at least five tournaments to be staged by the WDBS in 2017, following the announcement of the full calendar earlier this month.

With the support of J&S Trading, together with already-announced prize fund sponsors LITEtask, the PHMG Foundation and further supporters, prize money will be offered across all competitions. Further details will be released in due course as to how this will be distributed.

WDBS Welcomes Leonard Cheshire

The WDBS was delighted to welcome residents from Leonard Cheshire Disability to the recent Open Disability Snooker Championship at the South West Snooker Academy in Gloucester.

Residents Visited Sheffield in April

Residents Visited Sheffield in April

A major charity supporting disabled people in the UK and around the world, Leonard Cheshire Disability helps provide the opportunity and support to live independently. Earlier this year, they were selected as the official charity partner for World Disability Snooker Day, which was held at the World Championship event in Sheffield.

Sue Kent, who acts as a physiotherapy assistant at Leonard Cheshire Disability was among those who made the trip to South Yorkshire earlier in the year and six months on in Gloucester, explained that the Sheffield visit had proven to be a real spark for interest in snooker among their residents:

“The trip to Sheffield was a real catalyst for snooker with our residents,” said Kent. “People think ‘oh snooker, I could do that’ and the interest has developed from there.

“We will soon have a table installed and although we are a very busy and very active home, people have kept asking us when the table is coming and are really looking forward to it. One of our residents Joe is really keen to join the club at the South West Snooker Academy and become a regular member, while 18 of the 36 residents have expressed an interest in wanting to play.”

One player who travelled to Sheffield in April was Nicholas Haworth, who also was in attendance at the South West Snooker Academy earlier this month. As well as being able to watch other players in action, he was also able to receive coaching from Mark Parsons, who is a regular player himself and one of seven WDBS players to have completed the WPBSA World Snooker Level 1 course in 2016.

“Everything has been absolutely fantastic,” said Haworth. “This has been so good for us in Gloucester and having one to one coaching as I have had was amazing. Now that we will have our own table I feel that it will really help us along.”

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Tim Squires coaches Joe Davis in Gloucester

Kent said that for players like Haworth and others supported by Leonard Cheshire, snooker is an inclusive sport and that support has been easy to access with the support of the WDBS and WPBSA this year:

“The support received from the WDBS has been very good,” continued Kent. “It is a brilliant sport. It is all-encompassing and anyone can play snooker with the correct aids and coaching.

“Most of our residents have a physical disability and snooker is brilliant as it allows them to sit up and use their arms. Anything they see on television as well, they recognise it and that’s something that they want to be a part of.”

The next WDBS event will be the upcoming WDBS Hull Open, which will run from 11-13 November 2016 at the Tradewell Snooker Centre, Hull. For more information on how to take part, please click here.

For more information about Leonard Cheshire disability visit their website: www.leonardcheshire.org

 

 

Disability Day at Sheffield Winter Garden

The WPBSA will stage the annual World Disability Day in Sheffield on Thursday 21st April 2016 during the Betfred World Snooker Championship.

To be held at the Cue Zone in the Winter Garden close to the Crucible Theatre, the initiative looks to encourage people with disabilities to participate in snooker and support the ongoing work of World Disability Billiards and Snooker (WDBS).

Formed in 2015, the WDBS has already hosted disability events in Gloucester and Manchester, with further events to be held in Woking and Gloucester in 2016.

Players who have competed in WDBS events so far will be present during the morning of Disability Day to play doubles matches with members of the public. Later in the day, children with disabilities from Sheffield Wednesday Football Club have been invited to take part in a snooker challenge.

“We are delighted to bring world disability day to the World Snooker Championship,” said WPBSA Chairman Jason Ferguson. “We are proud to be a sport for all. We are delighted to see the involvement of so many groups and we are pleased to see our players and coaches engaging with our new activities and the work of the WDBS.”

The day will also be supported by Leonard Cheshire Disability, a charity supporting disabled people in the UK and around the world to fulfil their potential and live the lives they choose.

During the day groups from Mickley Hall and Gloucestershire House will be visiting the Cue Zone to try snooker. There will also be collections for Leonard Cheshire in Tudor Square throughout the day.

Barney Cullum, external communications officer for Leonard Cheshire said: “Leonard Cheshire Disability is very happy to be supporting this important event at the prestigious World Snooker Championship.

“Research conducted by our charity earlier this year found that 57% of disabled people are currently doing no sport or physical activity, with a lack of suitable opportunities cited as the largest barrier to participation.

“In light of these findings, and to mark the Paralympic year, Leonard Cheshire Disability is working hard to create a great many more opportunities for participation.”

For more information about the WDBS please visit www.wdbs.info

You can also read more about Leonard Cheshire Disability at their official website www.leonardcheshire.org