SEA Games: Peter Gilchrist, Alex Puan claim English billiards doubles gold

Four-time billiards world champion Peter Gilchrist then showcased his mastery in the second to claim it 102-63. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

HANOI - Cue master Peter Gilchrist made up for the disappointment of losing the SEA Games English Billiards men's singles title by partnering Alex Puan to win Singapore's first gold in the doubles at the Ha Dong Gymnasium on Friday (May 20).

The pair beat Myanmar’s Pauk Sa and Min Sithu Tun 3-1 to record a historic first triumph for the Republic, whose previous best showing in the event was seven bronze medals from 1999 to 2017.

Gilchrist, 54, was involved in five of those, with four different partners, before finally claiming the top prize.

“This more than made up for it,” beamed Gilchrist, who had won six straight singles titles at the SEA Games from 2009 until he was defeated by Pauk on Tuesday.

The four-time billiards world champion also lavished praise on Puan for his “exemplary” play.

Puan, 48, owns two SEA Games medals himself, a gold in 2003 in the snooker singles when he was coached by Gilchrist, and silver two years later in the snooker doubles. 

But the Hanoi Games marked his return from an almost 17-year sabbatical during which he focused on his career as an airline cabin crew member.

“This billiards double has eluded us for a long time so it feels amazing,” he said.

In the doubles, players take turns to shoot if their partner misses and Puan helped Singapore take the first game 101-65 before Gilchrist showcased his mastery to claim the second 102-63. But Pauk then skilfully helped Myanmar win the third game 100-36, only for Gilchrist to respond with an excellent game to help Singapore win 102-8 and see the match out.

Asked if he was motivated by his loss, Gilchrist said with a tinge of regret: “Of course. That was just a big slip-up by me... But you have days like that and luckily I hadn’t had one for (13) years.”

He added the five previous failures in the doubles had also hung over his head on Friday.

“There’s been three or four times we lost the doubles (semi-finals) 3-2, and down to one shot,” he said. “So it’s always in the back of your mind that it’s going to happen again but fortunately it didn’t.

“(This win) means more than the singles, to be honest... It’s a lot harder to win.

“You get to the table one in four (turns) rather than one in two and so it’s very hard to control a game, but I thought Alex did fantastically.

“He kept his nerve well, played all the right shots... I’m just really relieved to get a gold.”

Puan returned the praise on the man he considered a “mentor”, and said: “He has all the right answers for me. It’s just amazing playing with the right partner.”

Singapore’s pool players Sharik Sayed and world No. 1 Aloysius Yapp, however, had to settle for bronzes after losing their 10-ball singles semi-finals against Filipino opponents. Yapp fell 9-2 to Johann Chua, who won the 9-ball title on Wednesday,
while Sharik lost 9-3 to Carlo Biado.

This meant Singapore’s cue sports players wrap up their campaign with one gold, two silver and four bronze medals.

Gilchrist is already looking forward to next year’s Games in Cambodia, where he aims to defend his doubles title and reclaim the singles.

Backing Yapp and Sharik to return stronger, he said: “We’ve got some good potential in cue sports, some young girls coming through.

“Snooker, maybe we need to have a look at it but (overall) cue sports is in good shape.”

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