Kok Leong finds seasoned Wattana too hot to handle


Experience counts: Lim Kok Leong (left) congratulating James Wattana after he won the singles final. — Bernama

LIM Kok Leong was fidgeting in his chair while his rival James Wattana hardly showed any emotion.

In the end, experience prevailed as the Thai snooker legend clawed his way back from 1-2 down to win the singles final 4-2, dashing Kok Leong’s hopes of a golden double in Hanoi.

Kok Leong was off to a good start at the Ha Dong Gymnasium yesterday when he took the first frame 75-24 but Wattana made it all square by taking the second 88-34.

Kok Leong, however, restored the advantage by taking the third frame 70-25 but the pressure eventually caught up with him in his first final appearance in the Games’ singles competition.

The 52-year-old Wattana edged Kok Leong 65-48 and took the next frame 83-33.

Wattana then put the fight beyond Kok Leong’s reach with a 67-42 win in the sixth frame and the former world No. 3 was all smiles after finally claiming the gold that has eluded him in his illustrious career.

Kok Leong let slip an opportunity to capture his second gold after he won the 6-red snooker singles on his 27th birthday on May 17.

“I was leading 2-1 and I could have made it 3-1. But I made a lot of mistakes along the way and could not come back,” said Kok Leong.

“Wattana has 30 years of experience as a pro, so he knew what he needed to do to force his way back.

“Maybe my mood was not as good as what it was in the earlier rounds. Then, I was playing in the afternoon and evening but the final today was in the morning. I had to wake up at 6.30am to get ready and it kind of affected my performance.

“But anyway, I’m happy with two finals here,” said the Penangite, who is the reigning national champion.

Malaysian Snooker and Billiards Federation president Melvin Chia rued Kok Leong’s slip.

“We could have won a second gold today. Wattana was also not at his best but he used his experience to capitalise on Kok Leong’s mistakes,” said Melvin.

“Anyway, we contributed three medals (one gold, one silver and one bronze) when we only targeted to maintain the two medals won in the Philippines in 2019.”

In 2019, Moh Keen Hoo partnered Kok Leong to win the snooker doubles but the event was omitted in Hanoi.

Keen Hoo, who was a silver medallist in the snooker singles in Manila, contributed a bronze in the 6-red event.

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