Ding Junhui, the reigning UK Snooker champion came to the University last week and played a few frames of pool with some lucky students. The 19 year-old is regarded as one of the hottest new talents in World Snooker, and his victory last year in the UK Championship, hosted at the Barbican Centre in York last year, established him as a rising star.
Organised by the Athletics Union, Junhui’s visit to JJ’s in Halifax College last Wednesday, came ahead of this year’s championship where he hopes to successfully defend his crown, which he won as a relative unknown, in last years final against perennial favourite Steve Davis. Accompanied in JJ’s by his agent, translator and a local TV news crew, the youthful protégé nicknamed “the Star of the East”, played the winner of a fiercely competitive student pool tournament, that decided who had the right to face him.
The competition, which began at 10:30 in the morning, had by the time of Junhui’s arrival whittled down the challengers to Luke Fleet, the University pool captain, and Mike Walsh, the University snooker captain. After a three frame decider Luke Fleet was the victor and gained the chance to test his skills against Ding himself.
The Chinese star seemed relaxed, as befits someone who turned professional aged only 16, and he illustrated his undoubted ability with a show of slick positional play and easy, precise cueing skills that makes him a serious challenger for more ranking wins in this year’s forthcoming championships. Playing Junhui was obviously never going to be an easy task, although all those who attempted to rise to the challenge throughout the afternoon made good shows of themselves, in the face of some shots of pure world class.
In fact, only one student was to beat Junhui, during the whole of his flying visit. Philip Radford, a third Year from Langwith college, won his chance to play Junhui in a raffle and kept his nerve following a good start and a couple of mistakes by the UK champion to seal a win, which will surely give him bragging rights at the pool table for a few years to come.
A good turnout of snooker fans turned up despite the overcast and blustery weather, and after playing frames of pool with the chosen Students, the diminutive maestro was happy to sign autographs and have his photo took with enthusiastic snooker fans before being swept away to prepare no doubt, for the UK championships which begin on the 4th December.
By Liam Paul