Gilchrist finally pockets gold

Gilchrist finally pockets gold

MYANMAR - Trailing 1-2 in the best-of-five frames SEA Games final in his pet event on Friday, Peter Gilchrist sat alone in his chair as unpleasant thoughts filled his mind.

"I thought I made some silly errors, some stupid shots, and I was about to lose the final," the billiards world champion admitted.

"Then, when I realised that cue sports hasn't won a gold for Singapore in so many days of competition, I thought: 'Boy, tomorrow's newspapers are going to have some bad headlines for the sport.'"

So the 45-year-old sat there, desperately waiting for a slip-up from his Myanmar opponent, Nay Thway Oo, to find a way back into the billiards singles final.

"One chance, just one chance, and I thought I had a couple of 100-point breaks in me to win the game," he said.

Then, all of a sudden, as if straining under the pressure of expectation from the partisan home crowd, Nay got himself into a tight situation and missed his pot.

Just as Gilchrist had thought, that was all he needed as he levelled the final 2-2 with a break of 81 in the fourth frame.

Final saved, game on.

In the tense final frame, Nay again took a 57-32 lead in the race to 100 points but missed another crucial pot.

Gilchrist once more pounced on the opportunity, crafting a break of 51 to seize the initiative, before winning the final 3-2, sealing his third consecutive billiards singles gold at the Games.

It was also the first gold for cue sports at these SEA Games in Naypyidaw and the three-time world champion felt a huge sense of relief after his latest triumph.

"Both for myself and for cue sports in Singapore," he said.

"We've not been doing well in the last couple of days. I've lost in three semi-finals for three bronzes, and that shows that we've got a lot of work to do in the next 18 months leading up to the 2015 SEA Games at home."

His opponent, speaking through a translator, said: "I knew I was up against the world champion, and I would not get many chances. So I tried to make the best of whatever opportunities I might have.

"But he also capitalised on my mistakes. In the end, I'm happy I gave him a good fight."

Ironically, midway through the final, Gilchrist feared that he had squandered his scintillating form.

After all, he had thrashed both his quarter-final and semi-final opponents 3-0 but appeared to be struggling to put away Nay, the tournament's third seed.

"I was feeling good and I was really going in for the kill," explained the billiards star who received his gold from Acting Minister for Manpower Tan Chuan-Jin.

The latter is also an executive committee member of the Singapore National Olympic Council.

"And because the Games competition uses the short format, you really have to go for the win aggressively and not wait for your opponent to slip up."

Under short-format rules, winners are determined once they hit 100 points. When Gilchrist won the World Championship in October, the tournament was in his favoured long format - players win when they reach 400 points for the group stages, 1,000 for quarter-finals, 1,250 for the semi-finals and 1,500 in the final.

He had started Friday's final in the same aggressive mode, opening the first frame with a break of 72, but subsequently errors crept in.

"Nerves, pressure, anxiety - all of those combined to make it a tough final," he said.

Asked whether he intends to defend his title in Singapore in 2015, he quickly replied: "Of course.

"Who wouldn't want to defend his title in the comforts of the home ground?

"You can be sure that I'll be getting myself ready for 2015."

hankeong@sph.com.sg


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