World Disability Billiards and Snooker (WDBS) recently held its third event at the Woking Snooker Centre in Surrey.
The three-day competition was a landmark event for WDBS, as it was the first open to disability classification groups incorporating visual impairments, hearing impairments and learning disabilities.
Following an Open Day at which players with all disabilities were able to practice and receive free coaching from accredited coaches, the main competition then saw tournaments staged for each of the three disability groups over Saturday and Sunday. A separate Challenge Cup event was also contested by players who had not progressed to their respective finals.
The Group 7 competition for players with visual impairments was won by Paul Smith, who defeated David Baker 4-1. In the final frame of the match, Smith came from behind to force a re-spotted black, which he subsequently potted to secure victory.
Smith, who lost one eye in a shooting accident when he was 10, has previously competed on the main tour during the early 1990’s, when he played against the likes of current professionals Mike Dunn and four-time world champion John Higgins.
“It was a great event,” said Smith. “The people were lovely and it was a real eye-opener to see how players were able to cope and how well they can play.”
“I had a lovely weekend there with my fiancée Melanie who always brings me luck and it was nice to win with the support of people like former world number three Neal Foulds, who was keeping an eye on my results and giving me some friendly banter!”
Group 8, for players with hearing impairments was won 3-2 by David Ingham against Hull’s Lee Douglas in the competition final.
Ingham trailed 2-1 in their best of five frames final, but responded to force a deciding frame, which he would eventually win by potting the final black up into the green pocket to end a dramatic match.
A day earlier, Group 6 concluded with a 2-0 victory for David Barrett against Richard Yendle. The match was deceptively close with both frames coming down to the colours, but it was Barrett who would win both to claim victory.
Originally from Dublin, Ireland, Barrett is now based in Sussex and practises with the likes of Jimmy Robertson and Mark Davis at O’Sullivans Snooker & Pool Club in Bexhill.
Finally, the Challenge Cup was won by Gary Gallacher, who defeated Kal Mattu in a one-frame final. Gallacher had competed in the group 7 competition earlier in the weekend, in which he had taken eventual champion Paul Smith to a deciding frame in their round robin match, before ultimately just missing on a place in the final.
The weekend was supported by WPBSA World Snooker coaches Tim Squires, Bob Hill and Danielle Findlay, who provided free coaching to all players. Further assistance was welcomed by several players from classification groups 1-5 who were not eligible to compete in the main competition, but were keen to support the event as coaches and officials.
The event was also visited by Jonathan Lord MP for Woking and the 43rd Mayor of Woking Anne Murray, who were both given a tour of the venue and introduced to players and officials.
WDBS director Bob Hill said: “This tournament further strengthened the ambition of the WDBS to develop new opportunities for people with disabilities to play snooker and highlighted the inclusive nature of the sport.
“The event demonstrated the wide range of benefits for those taking part, including developing new skills, passion for a sport, the chance to integrate and socialise with others and the opportunity to be understood and celebrated for one’s abilities.”
Hill, who provides coaching in Bristol, Bath and North Somerset, was accompanied by players from one of his snooker groups who participated in the Group 6 event and he was delighted with the experience that they had.
“Everyone in the group thoroughly enjoyed competing in the first WDBS tournament of this kind,” added Hill. “It was a really well organised event and a great atmosphere to play in. The sporting spirit shown by all the players was incredible and the excellent support from the volunteers and referees gave everyone an equal chance to compete.”
The next WDBS event will be the second Open Disability Snooker Championship, which will be held at the South West Snooker Academy on 14-16 October 2016. The event is set to be open to group 1-5 players, however as in Woking players of other categories are encouraged to attend to provide support and play throughout the open day.