Features and Interviews

Good Things Come to Those Who Shed Weight

Mark Allen was convincingly beaten 6-2 by Marco Fu in the quarter-finals of the Masters on Thursday.

mark-allen-masters-17-ws

Allen won the Players Championship last year. Photo credit: World Snooker

While it is important to point out that Fu is currently producing some of the most clinical snooker of his career, the result still represents a disappointing exit for Allen.

The Northern Irishman played superbly in overcoming four-time world champion John Higgins in a first round decider but was unable to replicate that kind of display in matching Fu.

It all means that Allen’s wait for a major title continues and, while there was once a time when he was featuring near the business end of several Triple Crown tournaments, it’s now difficult to see when he might challenge in that vein again.

Still only 30, Allen has done more than adequately so far in his tenure as a professional with three ranking titles to his name, but significantly more was expected from him when he first burst onto the scene as a world amateur champion more than a decade ago.

He remains a solid top 16 member and will surely continue to do so for many years to come, yet what he desperately wants is to break into the top bracket of contenders alongside the likes of Higgins, Mark Selby, Ronnie O’Sullivan, Neil Robertson, Ding Junhui, and Judd Trump.

These are the select few who are always bandied around as potential champions before any big event starts.

It was interesting to hear Allen openly discuss his weight as a problem during a BBC interview with Stephen Hendry prior to his encounter with Fu.

The Antrim man said: “To be honest I think I need to lose weight, I really do.”

“I practice so hard and I work so hard at the game. It’s annoying when I’m not competing with the top players on the bigger stage.

“I know I’ve got the game to do it, I’ve never questioned my ability, but I think now I’m going to have to do something about it.

“There’s no excuse, if you really wanted to eat well you would eat well.”

Snooker isn’t generally perceived as a very active or physical sport – by some it isn’t even regarded as a sport at all – but there is plenty of evidence to suggest that a fitter body will markedly improve a player’s chances of success.

When snooker enjoyed its first big boom during the 1980s it was commonplace for the favourite players to be overweight, drinking pints of lager, and smoking cigarettes.

But in the last couple of decades practically all of the best players have been in relatively good shape.

One of the only exceptions to that rule was Stephen Lee, who managed five ranking event triumphs before his career ended in well-known, controversial circumstances.

However, with the natural ability that Lee possessed, surely a case can be made that he would have attained many more titles had he made more of an effort to stay lean.

2005 world champion Shaun Murphy is another who has struggled at times with his size.

The 34 year-old has won all three Triple Crown events so there is no questioning his pedigree, but even he underwent a fitness binge a couple of years ago in an effort to improve his game.

For Murphy, who this month expressed a desire to try and become the world no.1 before his career ends, it could be the difference between fulfilling an ultimate ambition and settling for what you’ve got.

There might not be much need for a six-pack and ripped arms but a strong body does lead to a healthy mind, and for a snooker competitor there is plenty going on between the ears to contend with.

Most of today’s top crop actively seek out ways to maintain a healthier lifestyle.

O’Sullivan’s passion for running is well-publicised while a number of other players, including Robertson, have elected to try a vegan diet.

Selby has reigned at the summit of the world rankings for more than 100 weeks and he represents one of the fittest looking men on the circuit.

Sport is all about pushing oneself to better the opponent, striving for glory, and achieving greatness.

If a player as gifted as Allen was to transform his physical approach to the game, it could only help in his quest to challenge for more major trophies.

Whether he has that level of dedication or not is entirely up to him.

2 replies »

  1. Selby is naturally slim, as were Davis and Hendry. Other players (Murphy, Bingham) aren’t but it hasn’t exactly stopped them. If Allen wants to lose weight then good luck to him, but there’s enough body fascists in snooker already who will no doubt make hay over this, despite the fact they’ve been nowhere near as successful as Mark, and don’t even care if they upset their own fans. Allen may be overweight, but he’s a better man than some, as his behaviour after his loss to Fu last night demonstrated.

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