World number 60 Chris Wakelin says he is fulfilling the vow he made to lose weight and gain fitness in the aftermath of his Betfred World Championship campaign.
The Rugby cueman showed considerable grit and determination by qualifying for the Crucible and maintaining his professional status in the process. His place on the circuit was left hanging by a thread at 5-3 down to China’s Lei Peifan in the opening round, but he turned it around to emerge a 6-5 victor.
Wakelin faced close friend David Gilbert at the Theatre of Dreams, but was ousted from the event in a 10-4 defeat. In his post match press conference, Wakelin pledged to lose weight ahead of the upcoming season.
We caught up with him to see how he has been getting on and find out how he is feeling ahead of the upcoming season…
Chris, how do you reflect on your performance at the Crucible against David Gilbert?
“I was gutted when I got Dave in the draw, as we are good mates. We didn’t speak until the game had been played, but after the match, he said he was delighted I qualified and really proud of the way I did it. That was a very nice little touch, as he didn’t have to say anything. He knows how hard it is to get there and how much it means.
“In the press conference, I said to Radio 5 Live, that I didn’t really feel in the best shape. Although my preparation on the table was great, I didn’t have the best preparation away from it. Just seeing the way Dave presents himself and the shape he is in, made me realise that is probably the next step for me. I made a pledge to change things and get back down to a weight I’m happier at. I think it will definitely help my game moving forward as well. I made a promise to myself on camera and on the radio that I would be different in terms of my fitness at the start of this season.
“I’ve been doing cardio, weights and running. I’ve been going about 20 to 25 kilometres a week. Like everyone else, I spend too much time on my phone and social media. That will be the next thing I do, remove all those drains on my time. Something you can’t create, or earn, is time. Everyone has a set amount of time to do things and that is it. The more time you spend looking at rubbish on your phone, the less time you have to go out and do stuff.”
What has made you realise that you are spending too much of your time online?
“Social media is a fantastic addition to your life, if you are in control of it. The problem with social media is that you aren’t in control of it. The apps themselves dictate what you see and who you see posts from. It is an engine which is learning from you and figuring out how to keep you engaged. All social media really does is find ways of keeping your time. It is fighting to have your attention for as long as possible.
“If I was to get up in the morning and go straight to the gym, I could probably get a full session in during the time it takes me to go through messages and notifications. Time is very precious, especially in these days. I think wasting it on social media isn’t doing any good in the long run.”
How did you manage to summon that three frame burst to win from 5-3 down to Lei Peifan in the first round with your professional status on the line?
“When I look back at that match, I can’t put into words what actually happened. I can’t remember much at all about how the match went. I just remember thinking that I’d barely missed a ball to be 5-3 down. He played out of his skin. I found something inside me that said I had to keep digging, keep pushing and try to make something happen. I was over the moon to come through. It felt almost like a free roll in the final round. I’ve never felt so relaxed for a match as I did in that match with Xiao Guodong, which I won 10-7 to qualify. Having gone through a traumatic couple of matches to survive, I felt brilliant in that game.
“All of the work I did in the months prior to the event paid off. I was practising with the likes of David Gilbert and Mark Selby. I also have to say that Joe Perry and Stuart Bingham really gave me lots of time and allowed me to learn off them and test myself. I fared really well in those games.”
You were present for the last session of the final to see your friend Mark Selby beat Shaun Murphy 18-15. How much of an inspiration was that for you to reach the business end of tournaments yourself?
“Funnily enough, watching Mark play in the world final was the first live final I’ve ever been present for. I’ve never played in one and I’ve never watched anyone pick up the trophy, which is strange after eight years of being a professional. Mark is a very good friend of mine and to see him win his fourth world title was amazing. There is nobody that deserves it more. He gets a lot of stick for the way he plays the game, but the more you learn about snooker, the more you come to realise he is the cleverest player there has ever been. He’s not slow and he’s not boring. I’ve had matches where I just stare at the table and don’t know what to do. If you watch Mark go through that thought process, he’s constantly building a picture of what the best shot is. Seeing him lift the trophy was inspirational. I’d have loved to be in the final myself obviously, but second best was being there to support Mark. I was really delighted for him.
“One of my main goals is to go on a big run at a tournament. Reaching finals and semi-finals has got to be one of my objectives. I want to push myself into unfamiliar territory. That is the reason why I’m getting fitter. I’m stronger than I was both physically and mentally at this time last year. There are a lot of good things on and off the table and I have a lot of positivity. I really believe that good times are coming.”