PETALING JAYA: Cueist Rory Thor Chuan Leong stole the thunder in Al Fujairah, United Arab Emirates, when he became only the third Malaysian to claim the prestigious Asian Snooker Championship title.
The 25-year-old Penangite broke into tears after overcoming Taiwan’s Hung Chung Ming 7-3 in the best-of-13-frame final to emulate the achievements of Sam Chong (1990) and Ooi Chin Kay (1994).
It was a tight contest on Saturday, with the duo tied at 3-3 before but Chuan Leong showed better mental composure to push through the decisive frames.
Chuan Leong, who bagged the singles gold at the Myanmar SEA Games last year, defeated India’s Kamal Chawla 6-2 in the semi-finals earlier in the day.
He outplayed Pakistan’s top hope Muhamad Asif 5-1 to earn a place in the last four. Kamal had beaten 2007 SEA Games champion Moh Keen Hoo 5-3 in the quarter-finals on Friday while another Malaysian, Muhd Reza, lost 4-0 to Iran’s Ehsan Hyderinezhad in the last 16 stage.
Although China and Thailand did not send their best players to the tournament, the burly Chuan Leong still deserves credit for his unexpected triumph.
Sadly, unlike his predecessors Sam and Chin Kay – who have won gold at the Asian Games (in doubles in Bangkok in 1998), Chuan Leong will not be able to emulate them as the sport will not be contested in Incheon this September.
Snooker and billiards are among the disciplines dropped by the South Korean hosts for the Asian Games.
But the good news is that the victory has handed Chuan Leong the chance to play in the British professional tour next year.
Saturday's victory was also his fourth straight title following victories in the Mike Yow Memorial Cup, XZ Tour and the Penang Open – all in April.
Malaysian Snooker and Billiards Federation (MSBF) president Melvin Chia said Chuan Leong was in tears as he conveyed the good news to him.
“He has finally achieved his dream of becoming an Asian champion. Rory (Chuan Leong) competed in only local tournaments before the Asian meet and, despite the shortcomings, still won the title,” said Melvin.
“It proves that he has the potential to go far and become a great player. His next target will be to make an impact on the British professional tour. He will be the third player to do so after Sam and Keen Hoo.
“We will draw up a special programme to prepare him for the challenge.”
His win should also earn the sport more recognition and funds.
The game’s progress was halted for two years following the suspension of MSBF before it was lifted last year.
The national players currently do not even have a proper training centre in Bukit Jalil.