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Commonwealth Champion Savours ‘Cool’ Crucible Experience

By Simon Cromie

Ross with WPBSA directors Jason Ferguson and Nigel Mawer

Commonwealth para table tennis champion Ross Wilson was given his first experience of the Crucible when he attended World Snooker’s Disability Day on Wednesday.

Wilson’s table tennis gold in Australia earlier this month has added to previous bronze medal successes at the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Paralympics, but the 22 year-old self-proclaimed snooker fan was keen to savour his visit to the sport’s home.

“I’ve absolutely loved being at the Crucible,” Wilson said. “I’ve watched it on TV my whole life, and actually going into the main auditorium was really cool. The seats are so close to the tables, and as a sportsman when the crowd are so close to you it really gets you going. It has been a pleasure coming along.”

While table tennis may be a touch faster-paced than snooker, Wilson believes there are similarities to be drawn between the two sports. He said: “They are skill-based sports so you have to put a lot of hours into both. You need a lot of table time, and also quite a lot of mental strength. You have to concentrate for long periods, and you have to be good at maintaining that concentration.

“You improve that through seeing psychologists who can give you different methods to counter the times when you lose concentration. In snooker, if you lose your concentration it can put you on the wrong side of things, but in table tennis you could be down a game because it’s only up to eleven. Both require a lot of focus.”

When he’s not putting in the hard graft on the table, Wilson admits that he enjoys watching snooker, and even picks up the cue himself on occasion: “I do watch snooker quite a bit, I’m one of your typical Ronnie O’Sullivan fans!” he said. “I used to watch it back in the day as well and I loved Jimmy White. I’ve played snooker a few times and I’m not very good, but when I get the chance I love to go out and play.”

In 2011, Wilson was diagnosed with multiple epiphyseal dysplasia, which affects the growing ends of the bones. He said: “I was looking for a diagnosis for about eleven years, so I was in and out of hospitals going for scans, going for checkups, and going to all kinds of specialists. It was a really difficult time for me because I wasn’t getting anywhere in terms of knowing what was wrong with me. As a sportsman, I really wanted to know so that I could sort it, and go and play in the para side of things.

“Since being diagnosed I’ve been able to understand the condition a lot more and use it as a positive for myself. After winning the medals, I’ve been able to use that as a positive to inspire others and get other people with disabilities into sport.”

At such a young age, Wilson has already achieved a tremendous amount of success in para sport, but he has his sights set on gold for the 2020 Paralympics: “I want to take that next step in Tokyo. Winning the Commonwealth gold has spurred me on even more, so that’s the my number one ambition right now.”

As for this year’s Betfred World Snooker Championship, Wilson is hoping O’Sullivan can go all the way. He added: “I saw Ding Junhui was in good form, but I’d always support Ronnie because he’s a fellow countryman!”

World Snooker Disability Day formed part of the #Cue4All initiative organised by the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association, which aims to promote the inclusive nature of snooker and billiards.