Positive pressure

Positive pressure
Peter Gilchrist.

Peter Gilchrist should be a lot more famous than he actually is.

After all, in the history of billiards, he is one of only three who has made a 1,000 break.

There have been five 1,000 breaks over the past 50 years, and the Singaporean has notched two of those.

Oh, and of course, Gilchrist is a world champion, having won his third world title in 2013, after previous triumphs in 1994 and 2001.

Had the Middlesbrough-born 47-year-old forayed into snooker instead, his name might be synonymous with the likes of Stephen Hendry and Ronnie O'Sullivan.

Indeed, as the 28th South-east Asia (SEA) Games (held here from June 5 to 16) approaches, Gilchrist, who will be vying for four gold medals in four events, would be more recognised on the streets and in pool halls of Singapore as well.

"Singapore has never really embraced billiards," Gilchrist said.

"Why? It's a game that takes a long time to be good at. It took me six-and-a-half years before my first 100 break, and that was after training four hours every day.

"I wasn't a natural.

"I got into the game only because there was a Teeside Balls Billiards League where I grew up.

"I started when I was 12 and was taught by some former world champions when I was 16."

Watching Gilchrist practise at the Singapore Cricket Club, it was easy to see why the game appears daunting for some.

Billiards, or English billiards for where the game originated, is played on a snooker table with just three balls (two cue balls and one red object ball).

Scoring is not as straightforward as snooker, and is achieved three ways: by a cannon shot - striking the cue ball so that it hits, in any order, the other cue ball and the red ball - potting, as in snooker terms, or, "in-off" - striking the cue ball so that it hits another ball and enters a pocket.

"People don't understand that you've just got to play it," Gilchrist said.

IMPOSSIBLE

"The downside is when you're good, you can make it look really boring. And, if you're not, it's almost impossible to play."

After 35 years in the sport, Gilchrist is not slowing down, occasionally also trying to rope a few younger players into the game.

The 2014 Sportsman of the Year will no doubt make his biggest impression on Singapore at next month's SEA Games.

The world No. 2 has won three consecutive SEA Games since 2009, and is competing in two singles events, and two doubles events with Chan Keng Kwang.

The overwhelming favourite for the gold medal in both singles events, Gilchrist is also eyeing a doubles gold.

His best showing in the event was a bronze in 2013.

"We've got a chance, but I have to play my very best," Gilchrist said.

"As a team, we're still inexperienced compared to Thailand and Myanmar, who have some world-class players.

"I'd be really happy with two golds, but it would be really special if we could win the doubles too.

"There is a bit of pressure because the Games is at home, but I see it as a positive thing.

"We know the tables, the conditions, the lighting, so that's motivating.

"Besides and, I keep saying this, if you can't deal with the pressure, then just throw your cue in the river."


This article was first published on May 25, 2015.
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