THE PAGEANTRY OF WOMEN’S POOL
BY TED LERNER
WPA PRESS OFFICER
Photos Courtesy of Tai Chengze/top147.com
(Shenyang, China)–Anyone who has ever been to any kind of event in China knows the importance that the Chinese place on ceremony. Everyone, especially the organizers, and other local dignitaries who didn’t even have anything to do with putting the event together, are all given their moment to shine, usually with long winded speeches that nobody listens to. Guests are made to feel that they are about to get the keys to the Forbidden City in Beijing. Often times food is involved, lots of it, as well as copious amounts of alcoholic drink. Teenage girls in elaborate get-ups dance to some loud and catchy song. Throngs of rabid photographers swarm the event recording it all.
And so it was at the opening ceremony of the 2013 WPA Women’s World 9-ball Championship on Thursday night inside the ultra-hip Richgate Shopping Center complex here in Shenyang.
For some reason, the organizers didn’t throw out the succulent spread of Chinese delicacies. But as usual, they spared no effort in providing plenty of pomp and pageantry.
As teams of youngsters scurried about preparing the arena for the event, orchestral music filled the atrium, as dozens of photographers and hundreds of fans and onlookers waited for the event to begin. At one end of the mall, towering over a Star pool table, a giant LED screen flashed information about the event’s title sponsor, a giant construction company named the Guoao Group.
The festivities began with some sort of press conference. I say “some sort of” because in China, the press doesn’t really ask proper questions. Any questions are usually giant “softballs” designed to let the person answering enumerate all the positives of the event and the people involved. Nothing controversial will ever be brought up.
After several minutes the chairs were pushed aside and the entertainment commenced. The theme for this year’s Women’s World 9-ball Championship is “All Stars” and “Shine 9-ball,” and the two phrases are plastered on every poster throughout the mall. Suddenly an all-girl band appeared on the floor. They carried instruments like the violin, guitar, flute, keyboard, all wrapped in brightly colored blue LED lights. They wore knee-high leather boots, wide-frilly skirts, and had microphones attached to their cheeks.
The loud catchy music commenced and they girls went into action, dancing to the music, pretending to play their instruments. Right from the start it was obvious they were just miming as several of the instruments were clearly broken. Still, the effect was pretty cool.
When the polite applause died down, it was time to bring on the main event of the evening. The introduction of the players. In one of the more bizarre juxtapositions one could find anywhere on the planet, the theme of the classic American western movie, The Magnificent Seven, filled the hall as the lady emcee brought out the players. And what an entrance it was.
There’s an escalator that descends straight into the atrium and the organizers had each of the players descend down the escalator as they were being introduced. First up was defending champion Kelly Fisher of Great Britain. As she slowly descended, a phalanx of photographers clicked away furiously down at the bottom. Kelly, clearly awed and delighted at the attention, waived and smiled. She then walked through the gauntlet of pool paparazzi, and posed next to the pool table, as camera flashes filled the air. Next she walked over to a wall that had been set up with a giant tournament poster. She signed a styrofoam star, then stuck the star onto one of the blank stars of the poster.(All Stars..get it?). She then turned and posed for another wall of photographers. Finally she took her seat in the audience.
The big stars each got their own introduction and it was fashion and glamor straight down the line. China’s Fu Xiaofang stunned in an all black dress. Her close friend Liu Shasha elicited a few ooh and ahhs with a sporty new hairstyle and a colourful outfit. Many of the European players were dressed in their finest, this their one and only opportunity to shine like nowhere on else on earth.
Some of the biggest responses were given to Korea’s Ga Young Kim. With her dramatic looks and sense of flair, Kim is a total natural at this sort of thing. She just oozed glamor in her white strapless dress which the Chinese clearly went gaga over as she milked the cameras for every last ounce of publicity.
Another popular player was Korea’s Yu Ram Cha. Yu Ram clearly has the look that Chinese fans adore; Petite, demur, regal and cute all wrapped up into one. One could say she has the look of a, well, China doll. The pool paparazzi simply went bonkers when she descended that escalator.
The biggest applause of the evening was reserved for the legend, Pan Xiaoting. Pan fits the bill for the Chinese public in every sense of the word. Pretty, demure, polite and a great player to boot. She was the original pioneer in Chinese pool. Pan, known nationwide here as “the Queen of 9-ball,” was the first Chinese player to win a world 9-ball Championship(2007). She also spent a fair amount of time playing in the US.
The introduction phase when on for thirty minutes. I must point out that for the Chinese players, this type of kick off to a tournament is clearly par for the course. Pool in this country is considered a proper sport, backed by the government with real money and training no different than the gruelling training that gymnasts and swimmers go through. And why not? Pool is after all, under the Olympic umbrella.
But for the foreign players in the event, being greeted in this grand fashion was obviously a wide-eyed experience that they won’t soon forget. Outside of China, and perhaps the Philippines, pool is a sport often looked down upon by the powers that be and society at large. Pool players are generally not even allowed into pool halls until they are 18 years old.
These foreign players will never, ever be greeted by adoring fans and rabid photographers. No matter that much of the adoration had nothing to do with their ability to play the sport at the top level. That this was more akin to a fashion show, and a pageant didn’t matter one darn bit.
“That was really nice,” said Austria’s Jasmin Ouschan of the introduction. “We don’t get treated like that anywhere else except here in China.”
*The 2013 WPA Women’s World 9-ball Championship gets underway August 9 at the Richgate Shopping Center in historical Shenyang, China. The players will be divided into 8 groups of 8 players. They will play a double elimination format in the group stage, race to seven, alternate break. The top four players from each group will progress to the final 32, where the format will become single elimination knockout, race to 9, alternate break. The final, to be played on Monday August 12, will be a race to 11.
The winner of the 2103 WPA Women’s World 9-ball Championship will receive $40,000 while the runner up will receive $20,000. The total prize fund is $150,000.
The World Pool-Billiard Association(WPA) will be on hand in Shenyang throughout the week bringing you all the drama from the 2013 Women’s World 9-ball Championship. WPA Press Officer Ted Lerner will be reporting from the Richgate Shopping Center with daily articles containing insight and analysis, as well as photos. Ted will also be manning the WPA Facebook page and Twitter feed and responding to fans queries and comments. Fans can also follow all matches via the WPA live scoring platform.
Please visit the WPA Facebook page for the 2013 Women’s World 9-ball Championship here; http://www.facebook.com/pages/2013-WPA-Womens-World-9-ball-Championship/360470447416060?ref=hl
Follow the WPA on Twitter: @poolwpa
Visit the official website of the WPA at www.wpapool.com
*The 2013 Women’s World 9-ball will be held in Shenyang, China from August 6-12, and is sanctioned by the World Pool & Billiard Association(WPA). 64 women players from across the globe will compete for the biggest prize in Women’s Pool. The 2013 Women’s World 9-ball Championship is a WPA ranking event.
Wendy Cook Berylin(NZL)
Wei Tzu Chein(TPE)
Angeline Magdalena Ticaalu(INA)
Lai Hui Shan(TPE)
Wu Zhi Ting(TPE)
Kim Ga Young(KOR)
Chan Ya Ting(TPE)
Jung Bo Ra(KOR)
Cha Yu Ram(KOR)
Huang Yi Ting(TPE)
Tsai Pei Chen(TPE)
He Hsin Ju(CHN)
Cheung Pui Man(HKG)
Lin Hsiao Chi(TPE)