Rocket in no hurry for records

Paul McConville

The bus for university was leaving in about five minutes or so. The World Snooker Championship provided a welcome break from the usual student's diet of daytime television.

I'd been bitten by the Crucible bug that April afternoon and settled in front of Ronnie O'Sullivan's match with the little-known Mick Price.

A few reds and few blacks in, it looked like the Rocket was shaping up for a maximum. I had my bag in hand ready to go out the door, one eye on the clock and one eye on the screen. Ronnie was fizzing the balls in with an unprecedented speed. I had a choice to make - watch what was already looking like one of the most swashbuckling 147s the Crucible had seen or catch the bus to be on time for my class.

Luckily, O'Sullivan allowed me to do both, rifling in the legendary maximum in five minutes 20 seconds.

The Rocket has had his ups and downs in the 17 years since then, but he still pitched up in Sheffield as the favourite to collect a sixth World Championship title.

Not that he's that bothered, as he told the BBC before his routine first round win over Robin hull "I'm not focussing on Stephen hendry's record," said Ronnie (above) after it was put to him that he could eclipse the Scots' seven world titles in the coming years.

For now, at least, the Rocket is all relaxed and philosophical: "I just want to enjoy life while I'm here."

If records and big fat cheques come his way as a result, then so be it.

Of course, the fact that Ronnie is definitely not chasing records didn't stop the BBC commentary team banging on about them. Sporting a quiff which wouldn't have looked out of place in Fred Davis's heyday, Robbie eased to a century break in his second frame against hull, John Virgo had to remind us that "Stephen hendry holds the record for centuries at the Crucible..."

Two frames in and the fine physical specimens, JV and John Parrott, pointed out how "incredibly fit" Ronnie was. "It's all that running he's doing," said Virgo, as if physical exercise was a completely alien concept to the 'athletes' who grace the Crucible every year. I bet Stephen hendry did a lot of running in his day though, he probably holds the world snooker running record. Not that Ronnie's bothered, he probably just went back to his dressing room, pounded his Stephen hendry punchbag and went for a jog round Sheffield.

The BBC's commentary box at the Crucible is usually crammed with former world champions, and Willie Thorne, but Dublin's Ken Doherty won't be chewing the fat with hazel among the potted plants in the concourse of the Sheffield venue just yet as he is through the second round, rolling back the years to his 1997 triumph. Now, I didn't mind missing the bus for that.


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