ZHOU YUELONG and Yan Bingtao, 17 and 15 years old respectively, pulled off a remarkable triumph to win the World Cup for China’s B team in Wuxi on Sunday.
Having beaten the highly fancied Welsh pair of Mark Williams and Michael White 4-3 in the semi-finals, Zhou (pictured above) and Yan combined to beat experienced Scottish duo John Higgins and Stephen Maguire 4-1 in the final.
They receive approximately £65,000 each and will earn places in the lucrative Champion of Champions tournament later in the year.
Teenagers they may be but Zhou and Yan played with great maturity all week. In Yan’s first frame as a professional in his opening match he made a break of 134.
Zhou has already demonstrated his great potential by winning the IBSF world amateur title at the age of just 15. Yan superseded this by winning it at 14 last year. There is every reason to believe that they could both go a long way in the professional game.
China, as hosts, were given two teams. The decision was made to put two youngsters into the second team to give them top level experience but few could have imagined they would actually win the title, particularly as China B were placed in the toughest group alongside England, the Republic of Ireland and Thailand.
So while the China A team of Ding Junhui and Xiao Guodong departed at the quarter-final stage, the young guns fully embraced the chance they were given. This could be an important springboard for them both in the infancy of their professional careers.
The World Cup was notable for the dramatic variance in quality not just between teams but within some teams. Some frames became dragged out, often under the doubles format, but there was entertainment and drama too, particularly in the Scotand v India semi-final when Maguire scraped over the line after Aditya Mehta had missed the final pink.
While the format was not to everyone’s taste, it was still snooker and the spread of countries which took part proved snooker’s international reach. They are not all of the standards of the UK nations but they haven’t had the advantages of these nations in terms of infrastructure and development.
On Monday, the sports that have made the shortlist for consideration for inclusion at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will be announced. Snooker was one of 26 which applied. Although the professional circuit is still dominated by Brits it is worth remembering that millions of people are playing snooker all over the world at various levels.
It is hard to improve in a country where you are the best player, because you need higher quality opposition to raise your own standard. The likes of Neil Robertson and Ding moved to Britain, but this is not a viable option for everyone.
However, Zhou and Yan are professionals now and their progress will be monitored closely – in China and within the sport.
Photographs courtesy of World Snooker.