Ronnie O'Sullivan: Building a bridge of snooker between China and UK

By Wu Yidan (People's Daily Online) 09:46, November 18, 2022

On the evening of May 2, 2022, the world-famous snooker player Ronnie O'Sullivan played in his veteran style in the last frame of the 2022 World Snooker Championships final. He eventually won the match 18:13, claiming the seventh World Snooker Championship trophy of his career. It was 2 a.m. in China, but messages of congratulation flooded Chinese social media from the fans who had stayed up all night to watch the live broadcast, sending their best wishes to this snooker icon.

As a popular British snooker player in China, O’Sullivan is affectionately nicknamed Rocket because of his high-speed and smooth style of playing. The reason that O'Sullivan has such a huge number of fans, in addition to his excellent skills, is his promotion of the sport of snooker and the cultivation of talents. His love for the sport and his extraordinary personal charm were felt throughout People’s Daily Online’s conversation with him.

Ronnie O'Sullivan

People’s Daily Online: You have been to China many times before. Compared with your first visit, what do you think is different in China now?

Ronnie O’Sullivan: The first time I went to China was in 1997 and we played in a snooker club out there. I think that it was very different from what China is now. China's development in all aspects is very rapid, and people's attention to sports has also been greatly improved.

People’s Daily Online: In addition to the overall development and changes that have taken place in China, snooker has also attracted wider attention in recent years. From your point of view, what are the specific ways that the development of snooker can be seen in China?

Ronnie O’Sullivan: As far as development, I think China has done a good job of nurturing young snooker players in recent years. China highlights the development and cultivation of the grassroots, which is crucial for snooker development in the long run. They have some well-equipped academies for young players to practice, and those who perform well can be selected to participate in the competition. In Sheffield, China also has established several well-equipped schools to help Chinese players transition to their best form as soon as possible. Ding Junhui and Zhao Xintong both played in Sheffield Academy before and achieved big progress.

When I first started playing snooker, there were lots of opportunities, lots of competitions, and lots of people for me to learn from, however, that isn't so much the case now in the UK. But China realized that and they've made sure that the people, the youngsters, should be involved in an environment where they can learn and try to get better, when they start to play.

Ronnie O'Sullivan

People’s Daily Online: You just mentioned Zhao Xintong, who represents the new generation of Chinese snooker players. Do you have any experience or connections with these young Chinese snooker players that you would like to share with us?

Ronnie O'Sullivan: Xintong is a very lovely boy. Looking at him I often think of my son. He is also a super genius in snooker. I like watching him play and I want the world to know how good he is. I have this sort of protection of him. He is a high-spirited young man, so he needs to be his own boss. I'm there when he needs my help, but when he doesn't need me I'll be quiet, leaving him plenty of room for self-growth.

People’s Daily Online: There are many young people like Zhao Xintong in China who dream of becoming professional snooker players. Can you give them some advice or encouragement?

Ronnie O'Sullivan: A good snooker player often needs to have many qualities. First of all, you must love what you do. If you like and enjoy the sport, it will be much easier to train for five or six hours every day. Then, being a great professional player requires discipline and responsibility, but I think the most important thing is to put in a lot of hard work, especially when you are growing up.

Many years ago, when I was young, I might have spent seven hours, maybe sometimes 10 hours a day practicing snooker. But as I've gotten older, I'm only concentrating on playing for two to three hours per day at most. As a player, I can't improve. What I'm trying to do now is to keep myself fresh and keep myself in a good place, to ensure a clear mind when the game comes. Therefore, when a young player first enters the field of snooker, he must dare to dedicate himself to practice hard.

People’s Daily Online: As a bridge of communication between Chinese and English in the field of snooker, what do you like most about China?

Ronnie O’Sullivan: I like Chinese culture. I come from an Italian background, and my mother is Italian. I love the traditional culture that Chinese people value family very much, which is very similar to the cultural background of Italy. The family sitting together and sharing food make me feel extra warm and relaxed. I also like Chinese food. The dim sum in Guangzhou and Shanghai, and the hot pot in Chengdu are all my favorites. So when I was in Sheffield, Xintong and Ding Junhui often took me to eat authentic Chinese hot pot.

People’s Daily Online:  In the past few years, in addition to the bilateral exchanges between Chinese and British snooker players, you have also frequently visited China and put on some wonderful performances for the fans. Do you have any words you want to say to your fans and friends who have supported you all this time?

Ronnie O’Sullivan: I love the fans, the snooker fans in China. And I am appreciating their support from my first trip to China. They have accompanied me through many important games in my career, seen me hit lots of beautiful 147s, cheered on my achievements and supported me through the dark times.

It's a blessing to play for the Chinese fans, and I always want to be better for them. Every time I go to China, I want to give them the best performance I can. Thanks again to all the Chinese snooker fans who supported me. I can't wait to go back to meet you all as soon as possible. 

(Web editor: Hongyu, Wu Chengliang)


Related Stories