Hong Kong world snooker champion Ng On-yee to play in men’s world championship at Crucible
World Snooker says the 25-year-old will be sent an invitation based on her feat of winning the women’s world title last year in Leeds
Hong Kong world champion Ng On-yee is to be given an invitation to compete against the top male players on snooker’s ultimate stage – the world championship – becoming the first Asian woman to take part in the sport’s most prestigious tournament.
Governing body World Snooker said Ng would be sent an invitation to compete in the qualifying stages of the world championship in April, the main draw of which is played at the iconic Crucible Theatre in Sheffield.
She will be the second woman to take part in the tournament after former world champion Reanne Evans competed in last year’s event before she was dethroned by Ng.
“Ng On-yee will be sent an invitation to play in the World Championship qualifiers (the same as Reanne was),” World Snooker said in an email.
Ng, 25, was already an established world-class player last year when she beat Evans 4-2 in the semi-finals of the world event before defeating Emma Bonney 6-2 in the final in Leeds.
She was the world amateur champion for women in 2009 and 2010 and the reigning world champion in the six Reds format.
The daughter of a snooker hall manager, Ng said the tournament would offer the chance to find out exactly what it is that separates men and women in snooker – if, indeed, such a gap exists.
“My coach told me that it was a possibility and I am very excited by the prospect to compete in the best competition in the world,” said Ng.
“It will be an awesome opportunity to learn more as I always wonder what really creates a gap between the men and the ladies.
Watch: Hong Kong's Ng On-yee in a face-off against Stuart Bingham last year
“Playing at the very top level is a dream come true for me. I am sure, like for me, all the top female players are very excited to see that World Snooker is showing signs of moving away from past tradition and opening up the door for more opportunities for ladies to participate in different competitions.”
Wayne Griffiths, head coach of billiard sports at the Hong Kong Sports Institute, said Ng’s expected appearance in the world championship is just reward for an extensive snooker programme in which Hong Kong players excel.
“Everyone associated with Hong Kong Billiard Sports and the Hong Kong Sports Institute is delighted to hear that Ng On-yee will be the first ever Asian lady to take part in the Men’s World Professional Snooker Championship in Sheffield in April,” said Griffiths.
“This is another significant milestone for Hong Kong Billiard Sports in a year that has seen On-yee win two world championship gold medals and be selected as Hong Kong’s only ever athlete to attend the prestigious BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards.
“In winning the 2015 WLBSA World Ladies Snooker Championships, On-yee secured a wild card to play in the qualifying stages of the Betfred World Championships in early April. She will need to win three rounds to get the chance to enter the last 32 stage.
“This is a huge ask for her, but I am sure she will relish the opportunity she has been given.”
Before competing with the men, Ng will attempt to defend her world title in Leeds from March 31 after having taken part in a ladies world series competition in the United Kingdom.
“This has been an exceptional year for On-yee. As a double world champion she has been Hong Kong’s leading athlete in 2015,” said Griffiths.
“This invitation to play at the very pinnacle of what snooker has to offer adds to her growing global status and is further testament to her skill and dedication. As always I am sure she will be focused on learning, enjoying and doing her very best and we look forward to helping her to prepare for, and compete in, the highest level competition that her sport has to offer.”
Added Ng: “After such a good year of results in 2015 I want to build on that and try to get even better in 2016.
Watch: Snooker world champion Hong Kong's Zoe Ng On-yee on how it all got started
“This added opportunity to compete and learn with some of the best players in the world is a chance I am very grateful for and I will work very hard so that I can represent myself, Hong Kong and ladies snooker in the best possible way.
"My goal will be to get every advantage from this opportunity as I seek to become a stronger player for the future”.
Apart from Ng, fellow Hongkonger Jaique Ip is also one of the top women’s players in the world. Hong Kong also found global success last year through Cheung Ka-wai, who won the gold medal at world under-18 level.
In addition, the city’s players won two bronze medals at the Asian Under 21 snooker championships and a bronze medal at the world pool junior championships (Lo Ho-sum).