It’s been a pretty good few weeks for Mark Selby. His beloved Leicester City were promoted to the Premier League, he became world champion for the first time, regained the world no.1 spot and on Wednesday announced that he is to become a father for the first time.
Our congratulations go to Mark and his wife, Vikki, on the happy news. If he has bought a lottery ticket this week perhaps he’d like to share the numbers.
Except, nothing about what Selby has achieved has been down to luck. Far from it, he has had to fight harder than most to achieve his dreams.
Money was tight growing up in the Selby household. He went to the local club once a week because that is all they could afford. But Selby’s potential was spotted by the late Malcolm Thorne, snooker club owner and one of the great supporters of junior snooker. He gave Selby free practise and the future world champion was soon going to the club every day, often all day. There were other juniors more naturally talented but few as dedicated.
Fast forward to 2014 and Selby has just won £300,000. I spoke to him briefly at the post-final party and it was clear the enormity of what he had achieved had yet to fully sink in. Maybe it won’t until he starts the new season and is introduced as world champion.
It’s worth remembering that just two years ago he arrived at the Crucible with his professional career in some doubt. He had withdrawn from the China Open a fortnight earlier with a neck injury and was in no fit state to play in Sheffield, losing in the first round. Several players have retired with neck/back/shoulder complaints and the exact nature of Selby’s condition wasn’t clear. World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn recommended a chiropractor in Billericay and the condition cleared up.
After the final last week Selby must have posed for hundreds of photos at the reception and also belted out a number of songs with the band hired to provide entertainment. All eyes – and ears – were on him, perhaps the final confirmation of his journey to the top of the snooker world.
There’s only one thing better than winning the World Championship and that’s winning it again. It didn’t take long for someone to bring up the ‘Crucible curse’ that all first time champions have succumbed to but it’s a bit early to start thinking about that.
This brief post-season lull is a time to bask in the achievement and then prepare to do it all again. Selby is due back in action at the Wuxi Classic qualifiers in just over a week’s time, assuming he has decided to enter.
Photographs by Monique Limbos.