Singapore’s world champion and oldest competitor at upcoming SEA Games gunning for 7th straight billiards gold

SINGAPORE: In the darkish of the night time, sleep comes simple for most. 

But when he tastes defeat at a serious match, six-time English Billiards world champion Peter Gilchrist stays unsleeping.

He’s seen all of it, achieved all of it, received all of it. But dropping nonetheless stings, even after many years of competing.

So, whereas others dream, his thoughts wanders again to what occurred, and what might have been.

“You put on a brave face, you could say: ‘It doesn’t really matter, it was a small tournament’, that sort of thing. You make excuses,” Gilchrist instructed CNA.

“But it’s in the night time when you can’t sleep … It shouldn’t happen, but it does. You go through everything you got right, what you got wrong.”

Although it’s half and parcel of being an athlete, defeat at all times tastes bitter, mentioned Gilchrist.

“I just hate losing, I absolutely detest it. I wish I didn’t, I wish I could be like so happy,” he added.

“I’ve said this before when I won a few tournaments. You’re always a loser because you lose far more than you win – even the best in the world. So you’re always up against that. And the losing hurts far more than the glory of winning.”

At the Southeast Asia (SEA) Games, nevertheless, Gilchrist has not misplaced within the males’s singles since 2009.

With six consecutive golds within the occasion at the Games, he’s aiming to make it seven in Hanoi later this month.

HATING THE HEAT 

The final time the SEA Games had been held in Vietnam, Gilchrist was a part of the Singapore contingent because the nationwide billiards and snooker coach.

After a stint teaching in Qatar, Gilchrist had simply joined Singapore six months previous to the 2003 Games. That 12 months, Singapore’s Alex Puan and Keith E would win the snooker doubles gold.

“It was nothing to do with me, they were just fantastic,” mentioned Gilchrist.

But one factor he did do was to convey the duo to the UK, the place they might be taught from the perfect within the enterprise.

“I had a lot of good friends in the game, and I took Alex and Keith to go and see really good coaches, just have a look-see what they think,” he recalled.

For Gilchrist, Singapore was at first meant to be a quick stopover relatively than the ultimate vacation spot.

A few years earlier than, he had stopped by on the best way again from a match in Sydney.

“When I went back I said I’ll never go back here again because it’s just so humid, I just hated the heat,” he recalled.

“Then when I was in Qatar, I got offered a job as a coach (in Singapore), so (I thought) I’ll give it a year. And then I met really good friends here and it’s just been the best thing that has ever happened to me.”

And so the Middlesbrough-born Gilchrist took up Singapore citizenship in 2006.

As he coached Singapore, Gilchrist additionally competed for the nation. However, sustained success would largely elude him.

“I was going to tournaments and playing players that I knew I was better than. And everyone was saying: ‘ Oh yeah, you’re finished.’ They were saying I was finished, because I was losing all the time,” recalled Gilchrist, who had two world titles to his title earlier than changing into a Singapore citizen. 

“Even my dad was like: ‘They’re all better than you now!’”

One of the foremost points Gilchrist confronted was that he was unable to coach full-time as a result of his teaching commitments.

“I knew that my game just needed time and practice. That’s all it was,” he added.

Gilchrist competed within the 2007 Games however would end outdoors the medals. He would win his first SEA Games gold within the 2009 version and observe it up with one other two years later.

But the sport changer got here in 2013 when he was one of many athletes awarded Singapore’s Sports Excellence Scholarship (spexScholarship), which might permit him to give attention to competing full-time.

“I would have just packed in (and focused on coaching if not for that),” he mentioned.

‘MASSIVE’ TO REPRESENT SINGAPORE

Thereafter, Gilchrist went on to win the world titles in 2013, 2015 (150-up format), 2016 and 2019. In the meantime, his profitable streak at the SEA Games continued – with golds in 2013, 2015, 2017 and 2019.

“The first gold (2009) was obviously the best one … especially (given) the fact that in 2007 I lost. And if I had lost again, it would have been like what’s happening you know?” he mentioned.

“The Singapore one (2015) was special, because we were in Singapore.”

Gilchrist clinched two golds at the 2015 Games, the second coming within the males’s singles (500 factors) occasion.

While he has competed and received at the best degree of the game, the SEA Games stays a particular competitors to Gilchrist, who described it as “massive” for him to be representing Singapore in.

“It’s definitely the fact that you’re playing for your country (which makes it special). That’s it. World Championships is an individual thing, and you losing in the SEA Games and you’re you’re letting everyone down,” defined Gilchrist, who received the Sportsman of the Year award twice – in 2014 and in 2020.

“So that’s what it is. And I’ve never been in that situation before.”

The brief format of the Games billiards competitors implies that anyone can win on the day, added Gilchrist.

“The SEA Games is more pressure than the World Championship. I love winning the World Championship, but because it’s such a short format (at the Games), I think I put even more time on the practice table before the SEA Games because you’ve got to be sharp on everything,” he defined.

“The players that I’m playing against – like the Myanmar players, and the Thai players, they are top 16 in the world. So it’s like any slip-up and I’ll definitely lose.”

Despite his success, Gilchrist says he has been “really lucky” to maintain the SEA Games streak going.

“I would say there’s probably 50 billiards players who under this format could feasibly beat me. But in the long form, probably five,” he mentioned.

“I’ve been so lucky to win. Apart from one SEA Games where I won every game like 3-0, I’ve been really lucky.”

And this time, Gilchrist needs not simply the singles gold, but additionally the elusive doubles gold.

During his matches, he employs varied strategies which take him away from the stress of the general scenario however direct his focus to his gameplay. 

“The good thing about billiards is that you can get (into) a bit of a bubble, and if it means a lot, you can just focus. There’s certain techniques that I use and it just gets switched on,” he defined.

“Because I’m thinking of these things, I am not thinking about the consequences – what if I lose.”

While others would possibly really feel the strain of success, Gilchrist relishes it.

“I really look forward to it, I’ve just been in UK … and my dad asked me, he said: ‘Are you looking forward (to the Games)?’ I said I’m looking forward all the time for this. It’s nice to have the pressure,” he defined.

‘I STILL THINK I’M 25′

At 54, Gilchrist will likely be Singapore’s oldest competitor at the Games, a incontrovertible fact that he didn’t know until he was requested about it in a earlier interview.

“I can’t believe I’m the oldest, it’s a little bit embarrassing,” he mentioned. “I still think I’m 25!”

Gilchrist hopes to compete for years to return. His purpose – 10 World Championships titles and 10 SEA Games golds.

“I won my first world championship in 1994 when I was 26. And I thought I was quite good then … But I look back on videos of that, and my game was shocking …With billiards, it’s like chess. You learn different moves (over time),” mentioned Gilchrist.

“Recently, a good friend of mine, Martin Goodwill … told me something that I didn’t know. I always think I know everything. And then all of a sudden, you think: ‘Oh right!’ It puts you in your place. And that’s what I like about billiards, you keep improving.”

But to make sure he continues to carry out at his peak, Gilchrist has needed to make some tweaks to his sport.

This is as a result of he has suffered from spondylitis –  irritation within the spinal bones – for greater than two many years, leading to again pains.

“When you want to win, you don’t care (about these things) but now I’m thinking longevity-wise I’ve got to (take care of it),” Gilchrist added.

Before main tournaments, he spends about six hours a day coaching. 

“My practices are more focused, mainly … because of my back. I’ve just got to be careful,” Gilchrist mentioned.

For the previous six months, he has been experimenting with approaching photographs at completely different angles and postures to place much less strain on his again.

“I honestly think that if I’d been going in just my normal way .. I might only have another year in the game because my back is not good,” he famous

Gilchrist has been implementing these modifications at current tournaments such because the Irish Open the place he completed runner-up. 

But in the course of the SEA Games, Gilchrist will revert to sort ought to the scenario name for it.

“There’s a few shots that I’m just not comfortable about doing it so during the SEA Games, I’m just going to go to my old way because I’m just not ready (with the new one),” he defined.

His purpose is to finally construct sufficient confidence in order that he can proceed to compete within the years to return with out risking damage to his again.

“I want to get it whereby I have the same confidence (in these new methods) – that’s what I want. It might take a year,” Gilchrist mentioned.

“I can only do maybe 40 minutes at a time and come away from it, stretch then go back to it.”

In his journey as a sportsman, one among Gilchrist’s greatest followers is his 9-year-old daughter Ysabel.

Just like him, she is a competitor at coronary heart, mentioned Gilchrist.

“We go swimming – I was always the faster swimmer. Now she’s probably a bit quicker than me and she just wants to beat me,” he mentioned.

“If I do beat her at something, she’s a nightmare. She’s loads worse than me!” 

Gilchrist will go away for the Games on her birthday. While he received’t be capable to fulfil Ysabel’s want to go away a day later, he goals to convey house some birthday presents when he returns. 

This is as a result of his medals not simply belong to him. They at the moment are a souvenir for Ysabel, stored in a cabinet in her bed room as treasured recollections of her father’s many achievements.

“She wants them, you know? But I don’t think she’ll be happy with a silver,” he quipped.

And given Gilchrist’s want to succeed, it’s gold or nothing.

For glory, and an excellent night time’s sleep. 

Catch the thirty first SEA Games Vietnam 2021 LIVE on meWATCH. Sign in now at www.mewatch.sg/seagames and get into the motion with Mediacorp. Or catch highlights on Mediacorp Entertainment on YouTube.

Singapore’s world champion and oldest competitor at upcoming SEA Games gunning for 7th straight billiards gold

Matthew Mohan

Source : channelnewsasia.com

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