Billiards halls are often depicted in Hong Kong movies as shady places frequented by triads.
Rather than being led astray in such establishments as a teenager, Ng On-yee, 24, found the snooker tables to be where she could get her life together and build the skills that have propelled her to international fame as the first new world women’s snooker champion in a decade.
Ng is on a roll this year.
After being crowned the World Ladies Billiards and Snooker Association (WLBSA) champion in April, she won her second International Billiards and Snooker Federation (IBSF) World 6 Reds championship in the women’s category last month.
“I think I have become more mature since April,” Ng said.
“I have learned so much while competing with the male players. The rhythm of World 6 Reds is particularly fast, and losing one ball could cost the game.
“I could play well in August because I have got used to this kind of competitive atmosphere.”
Ng’s father, Ng Yam-shui, a veteran snooker player, introduced his youngest daughter to the sport as she entered her teens, because he was concerned she was beginning to show signs of aimlessness.
“I didn’t do well in academics, and I was so addicted to playing online games in junior secondary,” the champ recalled.
“I slept, played and sat in front of the television all day long.
“My dad got worried and took me out for snooker games.”
Young On-yee was impressed by her father’s sophisticated skills and smart game-time attire.
“I started playing snooker at 13, because he plays it so well and looks so charming in the outfit,” she said.
“I hoped I could do what he did, so I asked him to coach me.”
Snooker, however, isn’t an easy sport to pick up or to play well. Tedious training is required.
Young On-yee thought of giving up because she was bored with the routine.
“I picked those training sessions I felt confident of and dropped those I didn’t like” she confessed.
“Later, my father lured me with food.
“When I did the shot right, I earned a point. With enough points, I could enjoy hamburgers and french fries.”
Since 2006, Ng has taken part in local and international snooker events, gaining experience at home and abroad.
In 2009, she won her first amateur women’s title at the IBSF World Snooker championships, defended it successfully the following year and then became a full-time player.
Though this has been the year in which Ng has reached the summit of her sport, last year was when she was plumbing her career lows at tournaments.
“I even thought of quitting, as I did badly and got tossed out at the early stages,” she said.
“I started to have doubts about my abilities after losing 0:6 in the final round of a game.”
Hardship strengthens one’s mind, Ng found.
She was saved by her coach’s teaching that one has to enjoy what he or she is doing at the moment.
Ng began to see each mistake as an opportunity to improve herself.
“In the past, I felt stressed — and inferior, too, as I quit school at Secondary 5 for snooker, and all my classmates are now university graduates, doing well in their careers,” she admitted.
Ng is no longer doubtful about that decision.
Playing snooker allows her to travel and meet people from places many Hongkongers have never heard of.
She even traveled to Damascus, Syria, in 2010, shortly before the civil war began, to defend her world amateur title against fellow Hongkonger Jaique Ip Wan-in.
Looking forward, Ng wants to make good use of her fame to help charities and sports in Hong Kong.
“I really think the government should abolish the law forbidding any person under 16 from entering a snooker room,” she said.
“In the past I had to do my practicing in secret.
“Once, I was caught by the police during an inspection.
“Luckily the officer let me go, as he understood that all I wanted to do was to play the sport.”
Ng said she hopes to see more affordable billiards facilities for Hong Kong teenagers like the one at Shun Lei Tsuen Sports Center.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Sept. 22.
Translation by Darlie Yiu
Hongkonger Ng On-yee new world female snooker champ (Apr. 23, 2015)
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