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?
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.