Disability Champions Head to Dubai

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Six disability snooker champions will compete alongside the world’s top amateur snooker players at this year’s WSF Championships in Dubai this March with the support of 360Fizz.

Last October saw the most successful players at World Disability Billiards and Snooker (WDBS) events held over the past three years come together for the inaugural WDBS Champion of Champions at Gloucester’s South West Snooker Academy. From the 24 players who were invited to the tournament, six emerged victorious from their respective disability classification groups:

  • Daniel Lee (Groups 1/2 winner)
  • Daniel Blunn (Group 3 winner)
  • David Church (Groups 4/5 winner)
  • Daniel Harwood (Group 6 winner)
  • Nick Neale (Group 7 winner)
  • Lewis Knowles (Group 8 winner)

As part of a ground-breaking initiative between WDBS and the World Snooker Federation (WSF), each of the players have been invited to compete at the 2019 WSF Championships, snooker’s premier international competition for amateur players.

Following a successful first staging of the event in Malta last March, this year’s Championships will take place from 28 March – 7 April. The event will include the World Women’s Snooker Championship and WSF Seniors Championship, alongside the mixed gender competition which was won last year by China’s Luo Honghao, who has since taken his place on the professional World Snooker Tour.

360Fizz Support

As well as the prize of a free entry into this prestigious event, it has also been confirmed that the travel and accommodation costs of each of the six players will be generously sponsored by 360Fizz to ensure that each of the players can take advantage of this incredible opportunity.

Through its irrepressible owner Jonny Welch, 360Fizz has already provided significant support for WDBS in 2018 with the title sponsorship of three events, including the record-breaking Fizz Open Disability Snooker Championship which saw an incredible 79 players compete across two days.

What the players said:

Among those who will be making the trip to Dubai is Daniel Lee, who competes from a wheelchair and won three WDBS tournaments in 2018, including the mixed classification Welsh Open event from a field of 55 players from all eight disability classification groups.

“I am very happy,” said Lee after he defeated Tony Southern 4-2 to win his category at the Champion of Champions. “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.”

Another to book his place in Dubai was Daniel Blunn from Sutton Coldfield, who has cerebral palsy and is a serial champion at WDBS events, including at the WDBS Belgian Open on what was his first ever trip outside of the UK. He is now looking forward to competing in his second snooker tournament outside of the UK in Dubai and showing what people with disabilities can do:

“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.”

Similarly, Group 4/5 champion David Church will also be travelling further than he has before and is looking to make the most of the experience, win or lose in Dubai:

“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.”

“A significant milestone”

WDBS Chairman Nigel Mawer said: “I am thrilled for the six players who will be heading to Dubai to compete at the WSF Championships this year. Since our formation in 2015 we have been committed to providing opportunities for people with disabilities to play snooker competitively, not only against each other but also in major able-bodied tournaments and through our membership of the WSF we are able to do just that.

“Already at this year’s WSF Championships in Malta we met players from Iceland and Israel who were competing with disabilities and for us to be able to reward our current champions in this way represents a significant milestone in our growth.

“I would particularly like to thank our sponsors 360Fizz who have been such strong supporters of disability snooker so far this season and we look forward to working with even more closely in the future.”

Jonny Welch of 360Fizz added: “I am proud to be able to play a part in helping these incredible players be able to compete at such an important international tournament as the WSF Championships. It has been a pleasure both for me personally and for 360Fizz to support WDBS so far this season and I would like to wish all of the players competing in Dubai

Learn more about the WSF Championships: www.worldsnookerfederation.org/u-a-e-to-host-wsf-championships-2019