KUALA LUMPUR: With “King of Billiards” Mike Russell coaching them, Mohd Reza Hassan and Chooi Yew Wah are ready to deliver Malaysia’s first SEA Games gold medal in the sport in Singapore next month.
The 11-time world champion was roped in to coach the billiards players by the Malaysian Snooker and Billiard Federation (MSBF) in January.
His presence has seen Reza and Yew Wah showing rapid improvement in their game and raised expectations of a gold medal in the Singapore Games. The billiards event will be held from June 6-10.
Reza, especially, was in inspired form as he reached the semi-finals of the Asian Snooker Championship at the Viva Expo Hall in Cheras last month.
“Our best bet is the doubles and team events because Singapore and Thailand are very strong in the singles,” said Yew Wah, referring to three-time world champion Peter Gilchrist and Praprut Chaithanasakun.
Reza believes that Yew Wah has also improved under Russell and is confident they can bring home at least a medal.
“The competition is tough but we want at least a gold. We’re still a work in progress in the singles ... but we can take the Thais on in the doubles and team events,” said Reza.
The duo are also looking forward to joining the rest of the snooker and pool players for a training camp in preparation for the Games.
“The camp, which will be held soon, will be good for us, especially to prepare us on the mental aspect of the game,” said Reza.
“As 50% of the game is decided on mental toughness ... if we can stay calm we’ll have an edge over our opponents.”