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China鈥檚 Love of Snooker

 

In recent years snooker has well and truly become an essential part of China’s sporting fabric. This is a nation who have historically excelled in sporting activities which involve a tremendous amount of hand-eye co-ordination, and billiard based sports are certainly no exception.

 

From an outsider’s perspective it seems like the Chinese passion for snooker has gone through the roof over the last decade or so. Originally the sport was on the periphery of the Chinese leisure scene. Smokey pool halls, the kind of which are now dotted around almost every city in China, were once the only places whereby one could enjoy this wonderful cue sport. Over time it has grown into one of the country’s favourite hobbies and it can now be enjoyed by all ages and levels of society. In Beijing alone there are thought to be more than 1,000 snooker halls at the moment, and that number is shooting up quickly. 

 

In terms of the spectator aspects of snooker, China is now one of the main global destinations for big prize tournaments. The annually held China Open is one of the biggest events on the world snooker calendar. Each year the tournament is held at the Beijing University Student’s Gymnasium, Haidian District, and is particularly noted for being the last important competition before the World Championships. It attracts the world’s best players and also allows a few of China’s finest emerging talents to showcase their skills. The China Open has become such a big event that the total prize fund is now more than CNY 10 million, with the winner receiving a cheque for around CNY 1.2 million.  

 

Coverage of other world level competitions in China is also quite staggering. During the 2013 World Championship in April, it is estimated that millions of Chinese tuned in to watch the action unfold. In total, 15 television channels provided live coverage of this year’s tournament!  

 

A lot of the credit for snooker’s rise to prominence in the Middle Kingdom can be attributed to one man in particular: global superstar Ding Junhui. The Chinese snooker wizard, who was born in Yixing, Jiangsu and now resides mostly in Sheffield England (the world’s capital city of snooker), has ploughed through the ranks to become one of the world’s most exciting players of recent times. Ding’s consistent appearance in the biggest world stage events has given Chinese snooker enthusiasts a superb figurehead.   

 

Not only is snooker a fun skill and strategy game for the Chinese, it is also fair to say that it suits the culture of Chinese talent cultivation rather well. The country’s reputation for producing child prodigies, whose skills are traditionally honed for several hours every day of the week from a very early age, clearly bares out with regards to snooker and other cue sports.

 

Today China has more exciting upcoming young prospects than anywhere else in the world. Two stars of the new generation of Chinese snooker masters are 16 year old Zhao Xintong and 15 year old Lv Haotian. Zhao sent shock waves through the world snooker scene last year when he beat former world champion Ken Doherty in a thrilling match. In similar fashion, upcoming teenage prospect Lv Haotian has become synonymous with the term ‘Chinese child prodigy’. His victories over world ranked players Michael White and Dominic Dale, as well as his reputation for having nerves of steel during televised tournaments have got thousands of snooker fans excited about the future.

 

With so much time and money being invested into Chinese snooker these days, it is only matter of time before China becomes an equal partner to the UK in terms of overall snooker talent and interest in the sport. Furthermore, it won’t be too long before one of China’s young players becomes the first ever Asian contestant to win the world championship! 

 

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