Gilchrist's Golden hat-trick

He collected his third South-east Asia (SEA) Games English billiards singles title on the trot, but not without breaking a sweat.

Up against Myanmar's Nay Thway Oo at the Wunna Theikdi Billiard Hall last Friday afternoon, Singapore's Peter Gilchrist made several sloppy mistakes to allow the local favourite to lead 2-1 in a race-to-three final.

Even after he regained some form to force the match into the deciding fifth frame, the 45-year-old let Oo lead 57-32.

But the Myanmarese shot his own foot by missing a simple pot, and allowed 2009 and 2011 winner Gilchrist back in with a chance.

The world No. 3, who won his third world title in October, made sure he didn't trip up again as he wrapped up the frame to win 3-2.

Two years ago at the SEA Games in Palembang, he also won the title in dramatic fashion after allowing Thailand's Praput Chaithanasakun to come back from 2-0 down to tie 2-2, before clinching the fifth frame.

Reflecting on the two tense finals, Gilchrist quipped: "I don't know, I guess I like to make it exciting."

With a look of relief, he added: "There were about 300 people in this hall, and all of them were rooting for Myanmar.

"He (Oo) has beaten me a couple of times before; he's very steady.

"When he went 2-1 up, he had the chance to beat me, but he just didn't take it. I'm very fortunate."

Acting Minister for Manpower Tan Chuan Jin, who is also a co-opted member of the Singapore National Olympic Council, was thrilled with the see-saw final, which lasted almost two-and-a-half hours.

He said: "I guess that's what makes sports and games like this competitive and great for the audience."

Gilchrist started last Friday's final well, winning the first frame 102-55.

But, with the fans firmly behind Oo, he lost the next two frames 74-100 and 18-100.

Upset

Oo's successful frames were met with loud applause and whoops of delight from the spectators, who sensed an upset was on the cards.

In a mistake-riddled fourth frame, however, Gilchrist came out tops after he racked up an 81-point break to win 101-45.

And in the final frame, the Singaporean raced to a 32-point lead before botching a straightforward pot - only to see Oo letting him back in with a similar error.

On his mistake, Gilchrist said: "I used to practise that shot two to three hours a night as a kid.

"But all of a sudden I couldn't do it. It was silly of me, really."

The Middlesborough native, who gave up his fiancee and British citizenship to be a Singaporean in 2006, admitted the cuesports team have not delivered at these Games.

In addition to Gilchrist's gold last Friday, Singapore won four bronze medals.

Their haul in 2011 was one gold, two silvers and three bronzes, while in 2009 it was two golds, one silver and two bronzes.

Gilchrist said the billiards players would go all out to ensure a better performance in 2015, when Singapore will host the Games.

He said: "Now we know we really have to do well and show we can play, and win a pocketful of golds at home.

"I think it'll be fine. It's at home, I think we'll have a good crowd and I think it'll be good for Singapore.

"I'll make sure I'm right for it."

msazali@sph.com.sg


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