KUALA LUMPUR: John Yong is the new national snooker champion after a 17-year wait.
The 36-year-old Pontian-born player beat national team-mate Thor Chuan Leong 6-4 in a best of 11-frame final of the national championship at the Pandan Indah Snooker Centre in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday.
With the victory, Yong pocketed RM5,000 and he can now erase the bitter memories of his defeat by Liew Kitt Fatt in the final of the 1991 edition at the Gold Dash Snooker Club in Kuala Lumpur.
I won a SEA Games gold medal in Chiang Mai in 1995 and I have played in the world championship but this (the national title) is something I always wanted and I will cherish it, said Yong.
But victory for Yong in the week-long tournament did not come easy though.
He had to beat third seed Lai Chee Wei in the quarter-finals and he was up against defending champion Benjamin Lee in the next. In the final, he played against a very much in form Chuan Leong.
They shared the opening six frames before Yong's experience and safety play allowed him to pull ahead at 5-3 but Chuan Leong refused to give up and hauled himself back from the brink of defeat to make it 4-5.
But that was as far as the contest went.
Yong took charge in the 10th frame and a 38-point break laid the foundation for his victory and the title, leaving his younger opponent shattered after a five-hour tussle.
Chuan Leong is a fighter and he doesn't give up. It was no surprise that the match went almost the full distance, said Yong.
For Yong, a double silver medallist at the Korat Sea Games last December, there is the Hainsworth Open in Singapore next where he and the national team, including the country's number one, Moh Keen Ho, will also be taking part. Bernama