IIn the Japanese track cycling discipline Keirin, it has always been the custom to shield all starters in a hotel for the duration of events lasting several days. In this way, contacts between bettors and athletes, who could arrange manipulations there, can be prevented from the start.
The comfort arrest is new for the 32 billiard cracks that will play for the world title in snooker in the English city of Sheffield this Friday. They like to have a break between the nerve-racking games at the green table. However, if all movements between the room, the reception and the outside world are strictly regulated and all violations are sanctioned, even the most lavish minibar cannot make up for the loss of self-determination.
Mr Trump, who is always polite and valued all over the world, will be able to prepare himself for something: if the tournament goes for him as predicted by some experts, he will spend longer in extensive social isolation than thirty competitors. After all, a final always rises on the island at the end, and who, if not the defending champion, number one in the ranking and seed list and the best earner of the unfinished season with the first name Judd, would be most likely to be expected there? On the other hand, the “Curse of the Crucible”, named after the auratic venue in a theater, says that last year’s winners always fail in the next attempt. This has been the case for over forty years and, in the British view, can at best be changed by using superhuman powers.
Trump would be one with such powers; this is largely unanimous in the scene. The almost 31-year-old defending champion from Bristol made his first maximum break at the age of 14 and has perfected his game in the past few years in a breathtaking manner. He has only achieved many of the 17 triumphs in the ranking tournaments of the global “Main Tour” since his brother Jack traveled with him as a manager and troubleshooter. Last but not least, laser surgery was also necessary to sharpen his eyes for the last details. Only recently “The Ace” confessed how to call him that he had previously acted “blindly” at the gaming table – which should never be taken literally.
But whether he can develop his entire assets under the conditions prescribed by the hygiene concept owed to a pandemic – that and so much more is uncertain. The postponement of the World Cup tournament was an excitement. And in the four qualification rounds in a closed sports complex, which preceded the main round, there were quite a few surprises. Not in favor of the brave German outsiders Lukas Kleckers (Essen) and Simon Lichtenberg (Berlin), who got stuck in the second round. But for Alexander Ursenbacher, the 24-year-old from Rheinfelden in Switzerland, who fought back tears after his fourth victory: “That means everything for me.”
Ursenbacher starts his first match against Englishman Barry Hawkins on Tuesday – a good four days after the opening game, which will take place between defending champion Trump and Tom Ford this Friday morning in an established manner. Anthony Hamilton should have started a few hours later. The 49-year-old professional from Nottingham, who won the German Masters in Berlin in 2017, suffers from asthma and finds the admission of 250 to 300 spectators in the Crucible “ridiculous” because it is life-threatening. The specifically drawn up hygiene regulations prescribe breathing masks for the fans on their way to their places – but there they can freely breathe. “If only one person in the Crucible gets sick and then dies,” said Hamilton, “it’s a person who died for no reason, just for entertainment.” On Thursday afternoon, he canceled his participation.
In early summer, the snooker organizers were praised for two Corona format tournaments for their catalog of measures. For them it was “a fantastic triumph” that is now making the World Cup a test area: In cooperation with the British government, the aim is to find out how much sport and in what dosage can be opened to the live audience. It seems to the five-time world champion Ronnie O’Sullivan that it is cynical enough to jump aside Hamilton: Only people “with a wish to die” could, with a clear conscience, get involved in the chosen scene, the mega-star, who was controversial, said. They make the players laboratory rats and could also shake his peace if he meets the Thai Thepchaiya Un-Nooh on Saturday.
So no one really knows what to expect in Sheffield this year. Only one thing is certain: observers should refrain from using the common language used by the “enthusiastic fans”.