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SEA Games 2023: Peter Gilchrist loses English billiards gold again to familiar foe

PHNOM PENH – Still smiling brightly, Peter Gilchrist self-deprecatingly diagnosed himself with “runner-up-itis”.

But there was no doubt the Singaporean was hurting after being swept 3-0 in the SEA Games English billiards men’s singles final by Myanmar’s Pauk Sa, the same man who ended his six-gold winning streak in the event at the Hanoi Games in 2022.

Candidly, he told The Straits Times: “I’ve got to make 100-point breaks, and I had so many chances. To not make 100 when I’m at the top of the table was ridiculous. If I can’t do that, then I don’t deserve to win really.”

On Tuesday, the 55-year-old had his chances but never got going, losing 100-12, 100-76, 101-78 in his eighth straight SEA Games English billiards men’s singles final.

Played on a snooker table, English billiards features only three balls – the white and yellow balls, one of which serves as a cue ball for one player and an object ball for the opponent and vice versa, and the red ball that is a common object ball.

Points can be scored through cannons and potting balls and in the SEA Games format, the first player to reach 100 points wins the frame, and the first to secure three frames wins the match.

Theoretically, this would suit Gilchrist, a four-time long format world champion who holds the world record break of 1,346 points. But he was unusually off-colour, missing what would usually be simple pots for him, and he ran out of position at crucial moments.

The world No. 2 explained: “I just didn’t settle down from the start. I missed a couple of shots I started to get doubts in your mind – am I cueing right, am I doing things good? Before I knew it, I was 1-0 and 2-0 down.

“And my opponent plays a really good 100 game, he makes the game quite hard for me, and he just seems to score all the time. He doesn’t seem to have a great pattern of play, he goes for some outrageous shots and gets them.”

Pauk Sa was a gracious winner, even though the medal ceremony was delayed after the organisers played what the Myanmar contingent said was the wrong and abridged version of their national anthem.

He said: “I’m very happy I could perform well because it is not easy to beat a former world champion like Peter. Today, the balls rolled my way and everything worked in my favour. I was lucky to beat him by such a wide margin.”

Gilchrist, who will turn his attention to the Irish Open and World Matchplay Championship in Carlow from May 19 to 26, also took inspiration from his older opponent and vowed to return stronger, especially with the Games heading to Singapore in 2029.

He said: “Pauk Sa is 64, (Philippines veteran) Efren Reyes is 68, I’m a young pup at 55. I’ll still be about as long as that I still enjoy it. I don’t enjoy the losing part but that’s part and parcel of the game.”