SINGAPORE - One is 50, the other young enough to be his son at 26. Toh Lian Han and Aloysius Yapp are coach and athlete but also a great partnership as witnessed by their fine run to the final of the World Cup of Pool.
While they fell 11-6 to Spain in Sunday’s finale, the pair created history by becoming the first Singaporeans to reach the final of the US$250,000 (S$346,000) event.
World No. 7 Aloysius Yapp and 68th-ranked Toh Lian Han earned US$30,000 in recording the Republic’s finest result in the competition. The previous best finish was a quarter-final run in 2007, when Toh and Chan Keng Kwang were partners.
Yapp, a former world No. 1, said: “It’s unexpected to make the final because we kind of struggled and we actually switched off in the second match. To scrap past Kuwait then was like a fresh start for us, and it’s amazing how far we have come.
“Spain played really well and we really didn’t have many chances. And when we did, we couldn’t really capitalise on them. But it’s okay, that’s pool. We have been quite lucky throughout the week too.”
Spain’s world No. 5 Francisco Sanchez Ruiz and 18th-ranked David Alcaide were in imperious form throughout the tournament in Essex, beating Australia and Albania 7-1, Britain B 9-2 and Chinese Taipei 9-4.
After the final, Ruiz said: “I feel so good now. I think we deserve this because we worked so hard, travelled around the world, endured tough moments for one tournament like this, and we got it today.”
In the final, Spain burst out of the traps again, racing to a 4-0 lead with Ruiz deadly even with tricky bank shots.
But Yapp and Toh showed their fierce fighting spirit, which had helped them overcome Qatar (7-3), Kuwait (7-6), Finland (9-6) and the United States (9-3) in the earlier rounds.
Yapp made a delightful pot off a jump shot in the ninth rack, while Toh kept things neat and tidy as they won four out of five frames to reduce the arrears to 7-6.
Alas, that was as close as it got for the Singaporeans as they ran out of luck, with Yapp scratching off the break in the following rack and the Spaniards potting at will, sealing a remarkable win with Alcaide’s brilliant 2-9 combination.
Earlier Toh had said: “It’s always an honour to represent Singapore in international competitions and a joy to team up with Aloysius.
“I may be his coach, but he is also a friend and we form a good team. I may be older, but I also feel nervous at times and it’s good that we can be there for each other, to discuss strategy and reassure one another during this event.”
Cuesports Singapore president Justin Lee was thrilled with the result, saying: “Our athletes continue to inspire and allow Singaporeans to dream. We are extremely proud of how Aloysius and Lian Han pushed Spain in the final, and our association will continue to help them pursue and achieve their goals and ambitions.”
Next up for Yapp is the July 7-17 World Games in Birmingham, United States, and the local duo will then play in the Aug 9-14 European Open in Fulda, Germany.