O'Sullivan vowing to return as Olympics target set

five-times champion Ronnie O'Sullivan will be back at the Crucible in Sheffield next year after failing to reach this year's quarter-finals.
Ronnie OSullivan talks to the media following his exit from the Crucible (Picture: Simon Cooper/PA).Ronnie OSullivan talks to the media following his exit from the Crucible (Picture: Simon Cooper/PA).
Ronnie OSullivan talks to the media following his exit from the Crucible (Picture: Simon Cooper/PA).

Barry Hawkins booked a place in the last eight by withstanding a stirring fightback from O’Sullivan, who came back from 12-9 to level before Hawkins held his nerve in a final frame decider to book a meeting with Marco Fu.

O’Sullivan admitted he was still struggling with the pressure associated with being perceived as the standard-bearer of his sport.

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He said: “I find it difficult being a figurehead of the sport with all the attention on me and such a high expectation on me, including from myself, and sometimes I don’t handle that well.

“Hopefully, with a bit of help and support I can manage the pressure and stress I put on myself and that comes from you guys (the media) as well, because you kind of make out I’ve won the tournament before I even turn up.

“I have to deal with that and I think I’ve found a way to deal with that. I’ve done well for 25 years and you have little moments in your career where you kind of go a bit brittle. But I feel strong now and I look forward to coming back.”

O’Sullivan also spoke of his media no-show after his first-round win over David Gilbert.

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“I wasn’t in a fit state to really come and speak to you guys,” he said. “For various reasons, I wasn’t in a state to speak. It wasn’t that I was being arrogant or thinking I’m shirking my responsibilities.”

O’Sullivan was warned about his future conduct by World Snooker following that victory.

Snooker chief Jason Ferguson, meanwhile, believes the sport is in prime position to capitalise on its rapidly expanding professional itinerary by launching a renewed bid for inclusion in the 2024 Olympic Games.

Ferguson, both chairman of governing body the WPBSA as well as president of their umbrella organisation, the World Confederation of Billiards Sports, announced the move in Sheffield yesterday.

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Despite having been left off the final shortlist for inclusion at the expanded Tokyo Games in 2020, Ferguson believes a professional tour that visited 10 different countries this season is testament to its rapidly increasing opportunity.

Ferguson said: “If you go back five years we’d have said, ‘Olympics? No chance.’

“But we have developed our sport and expanded our programme globally and I think we fully deserve our place on the Olympic platform.

“I can confirm that we will be making a bid for the 2024 Olympic Games. We made a late bid for Tokyo and we did very well.

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“We learned a lot through that process and we know we have the ability to deliver a fantastic Olympic event.”

Snooker is a regular part of the programme for the World Games, a four-yearly event for sports not in the Olympics, and will use next year’s competition in Wroclaw, Poland as a means to impress the merits of snooker on watching International Olympic Committee officials.

“The IOC have confirmed they will be using Wroclaw as a test event for potential Olympic sports for 2024, and we believe we will deliver a very strong event and off the back of that we will be working very hard on our Olympic bid,” added Ferguson.

“We hear a lot about legacy and cost at the Olympics and the multi-millions that are spent on new arenas and swimming pools. But we can present an Olympic sport on a very tight budget because we can take over any facility and make it look great.

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“The bottom line will be ‘does the host of the 2024 Games want snooker in there?’

“If it is one of the 110 countries with a snooker governing body, then we have a chance. I don’t think there’s another sport on this planet that could do it as well as us.”

Ferguson also confirmed the WCBS will make a parallel bid for a return to the Paralympic programme.

A snooker tournament was regularly contested in the early years of the Paralympics, but was taken off the programme in 1988 and is yet to return.

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After the high of his win over O’Sullivan, Hawkins came crashing down to earth yesterday.

Hawkins fell 7-1 behind against Marco Fu in the afternoon’s opening session.

On the other table John Higgins came from behind to lead fellow Scot Alan McManus 5-3.

Sheffield-based Ding Junhui became the first man into the last four when he comprehensively defeated twice former champion Mark Williams, of Wales, 13-3.

In an all-English clash, Mark Selby gained the upper hand on Kyren Wilson and leads 10-6 going into today’s play.