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Preston snooker coach Roger Leighton is leading China's charge

Snooker coach Roger Leighton with some of his pupils
Snooker coach Roger Leighton with some of his pupils

Preston snooker coach Roger Leighton is hoping to help upset the status quo at the very top of the game.

Never in the history of the World Championships as a player from the Far East won the coveted title.

Since 1927 – when the first ever championships took place at Birmingham’s Camkin’s Hall – the competition has been dominated by UK players.

Only four players from outside the British Isles have ever won the title in 91 years.

Australian Horace Lindrum was the first to break the UK stranglehold in 1952 and in the modern era only Canada’s Cliff Thorburn, Irishman Ken Doherty and Aussie Neil Robertson’s have laid their hands on the famous silver trophy since the championships moved to its present and iconic home, the Crucible in Sheffield.

But former professional player Leighton reckons that it will not be long before a player from Asia will break through and finally land the sport’s biggest prize.

And he should know – he coaches some of the best, up-and-coming, young players in China.

There are currently a number of players from China in the world’s top 64 and slowly but surely players from that region of the world have begun to make their mark in recent times.

Thailand’s James Wattana took the snooker world by storm back in the 1990s when he reached two World Championship semi-finals.

Ding Junhui came close to being the first Chinese player to win the worlds when he reached the final in 2016 but lost to Mark Selby

However, Leighton reckons the game will soon be dominated by players from the Far East.

“The sport is big over in China,” said Leighton, who is now based in Hong Kong.

“I don’t think it will be long before we have a world champion from China.”

Leighton is hopeful that it will be one of his pupils who will land the country its first coveted crown.

He coaches 18-year-old Luo Honghao, who is the world amateur champion, and world Under-21s champion Fan Zhengyi (17).

Honghao recently played the 2010 world champion Robertson, ironically at Preston Guild Hall, losing narrowly 4-2 and Leighton believes the youngster can go right to the top of the sport.

“I have been coaching Luo for a good few years,” said Leighton. “Believe me I would get some money on him to win the Worlds because he will win you a lot of money.”

As well as those two, Leighton also coaches 14-year-old student Wu Yize, who is the current world Under 21 champion as well as Chang Bingyu and Bai Langning – both 15.

“Bai and Chang are currently ranked one and two in China in the adult section and have a great chance of next year becoming professionals,” said Leighton.

"Wu Yize won the Under-21s snooker championship last when he came from 4-1 down to beat Jinan China 6-4.

"He is the youngest ever to win this, beating Ding Junhui's record."