Ding Junhui, 22, started playing snooker at the age of 9 with his father at local clubs. He was soon beating all-comers, so his father took Ding to Dongguan, where China’s national snooker team trained. His big break came in 2002, when he won the Asian Under-21 Championship, the Asian Championship and the IBSF World Under-21 Championship. He is still the youngest player to make a 147 (the maximum break) during a televised session.
What is he famous for?
More than 100 million people watched Ding, who was 18 at the time, win the 2005 China Open. He went on to become the first Chinese to win three major titles – the China Open and the UK Championships in 2005 and the Northern Ireland Trophy in 2006.
Ding’s rise has been crucial in boosting interest in snooker in China. “When I was a small boy, snooker was not in the top 10 favourite sports,” he says. “Table tennis was top, followed by soccer, basketball and badminton. Now, snooker is definitely in the top five.”
Why is he in the news?
Ding recently won the UK Championship, where he beat current world champion John Higgins to a first prize of £100,000 ($162,455). That is the largest pay cheque of his career so far, and it has helped him rise to sixth in the provisional world rankings.
The victory was also a symbolic one for Ding, as his first major tournament victory since his confidence-shattering defeat to Ronnie O’Sullivan in the 2007 Wembley Masters Final, when he left the arena close to tears.
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