China / Sports

Taking a cue from the greats Hong Kong woman looks to break men's elite

By Agence France Presse In Hong Kong (China Daily) Updated: 2016-03-11 08:06

Women's snooker world champion Ng On-yee grew up beating the boys in the smoke-filled halls of Hong Kong.

Now she is challenging for a place among the men's elite on the sport's biggest stage.

The bespectacled Ng is training hard after earning a dream ticket to the qualifying tournament for next month's men's world championships in Sheffield, England.

Ng, resplendent in her bowtie and waistcoat, is hoping to become the first woman to reach the main draw by going one better than England's Reanne Evans, who lost in qualifying last year.

Ng shocked Evans in the semifinals of last year's women's world championships en route to taking the title and gaining her invitation to Sheffield.

Now she hopes to stake her place among snooker's top stars, including reigning world champion Stuart Bingham and the colorful Ronnie 'The Rocket' O'Sullivan.

"Playing at the top level, that is a dream come true for me," said Ng, adding her goal is to become one of the world's best players, male or female.

"I wish I could be ... and I'm now setting the target step-by-step in getting there," she said.

Ng is coached by Wayne Griffiths, son of Welsh great Terry Griffiths who won the world title at Sheffield's famous Crucible Theatre in 1979, beating Dennis Taylor in the final.

She spent her early years running around the snooker hall her parents managed in the working-class Hong Kong district of Sham Shui Po, stacked with high-rise buildings and known for its bustling street market.

Snazzy attire

Hong Kong's dimly-lit snooker venues, hidden away from the hustle and bustle of daily life, are often cast as haunts for shady characters, and female players are a rarity.

But Ng always felt at home there and she was finally inspired to start playing at 13, after being wowed by her father, an amateur player.

She said she remembers being entranced by his snazzy snooker attire, complete with dress shirt, black waistcoat and bow-tie.

"One day I saw him at a competition with this uniform, and I loved the uniform very much, and I thought I could be special if I wore the same thing," Ng said.

"I asked my father to teach me how to play and he was delighted."

After that, snooker became a big part of Ng's life and she spent five to six hours practicing every day.

In one drill, she guided the cue hundreds of times through a small ring placed on the table in order to perfect her stroke.

Not many girls frequent Hong Kong's snooker halls, but Ng said her fellow players were supportive as she cut her teeth in local contests against male players.

"There would be some other men or boys watching me play, but they didn't laugh at me ... they just encouraged me," she said.

But it was at her first international tournament, the 2006 women's world championships in Jordan, that Ng was inspired to take snooker even further.

"I wished I could be like them, traveling around the world for tournaments," she said.

'Awesome opportunity'

Fast forward 10 years, and Ng has given up her studies to play full-time-with impressive results.

She will break new ground as the first Asian woman to tackle qualifying at the men's world championships, as she bids to become the only female player to reach the main draw.

"It would be an awesome opportunity to learn more as I wonder what really creates a gap between the men and the ladies," Ng said of her upcoming trip.

Griffiths, her coach, said they are taking it one step at a time.

"To reach the pinnacle of the men's game is still a massive step," he said.

"If she can qualify for the men's tour and remain there for at least two years, anything could be possible."

Ng, who will also be defending her women's world title in Britain this month, is aiming to reach the heights of her sport - but is patient about getting there.

"I still have a long way to go," she said.

"For me, I just play snooker because I love and enjoy the game so much."


Taking a cue from the greats Hong Kong woman looks to break men's elite

World champion Ng Onyee plays a shot during a recent game in the Sheung Wan district of Hong Kong. Lsaac Lawrence / AFP

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