A story of grit, determination and promise: The rise of Mark Selby

A story of grit, determination and promise: The rise of Mark Selby

The Jester from Leicester won his third World Championship this year to cement his place alongside snooker's greatest.

chris-lincoln
Chris Lincoln

When Mark Selby sunk the winning ball at the Crucible three weeks ago, it was a moment that put him amongst snooker's hall of fame. A three-time World Champion that looks unstoppable, his route to the top celebrates more than just a career of talent.

A childhood that formed the foundations of resilience

In fact, Selby's matchplay nous and ability to maintain high-scoring breaks under severe pressure is almost a misinterpretation. Snooker great Willie Thorne once described Selby as the "hardest working player I have seen" because "he did not have natural talent like other young players".

What Selby may have lacked in natural ability, he certainly made up for on the practice tables. Yet it could have been a completely different story.

Left by his mother at eight years old and then subjected to the tragedy of his father passing away at sixteen, Selby could have easily gone off the rails. Yet it was snooker that proved to be his saviour.

His father introduced him to the sport at a young age and took Selby junior to his local snooker club. The owners bent the rules for Mark to join, though as he improved and began to beat the regulars, complaints were made as Selby ultimately lost his place.

Fortunately for the young hopeful, it was Willie Thorne and his brother Malcolm who took Selby in. Though Willie suggests he "could not see the potential", Malcolm was adamant that this local lad could be a star.

Sacrifice brings success

Selby put his life and soul into practising. It got to the point that he was not attending school, though his PE teacher staked a case for teenage Selby and encouraged the school to allow him to learn at home.

After coming away with no GCSE's, the tragedy of Selby's father losing his battle with cancer forced him to turn professional at just sixteen years old. The youngest player on the circuit.

Age was not an issue considering what Mark had encountered during his childhood and teenage years. At just 19 he reached his first ranking final at the Scottish Open, before announcing himself on the global stage with victory in the World 8 Ball Championship at the age of 22.

Dominance presides

A year later he stunned the Crucible by reaching the World Championship final. Selby eventually lost 18-13 to John Higgins but only after he showed an immense level of grit and determination to respond from 12-4 down.

In 2008 he won his first ranking title against Ronnie O'Sullivan in the Welsh Open, before stepping up again to defeat the same man in the Masters two years later.

Yet that first World title was still missing and in 2013 Selby picked up a shoulder injury that threatened to bring his career to an abrupt end. However, as is the case with the Jester from Leicester, Selby recovered and defeated O'Sullivan just a year later to win his maiden World Championship crown. He had been 10-5 down and won 18-14.

The triumph meant more than an incredible rise to fame. Selby had promised his late father that he would become World Champion. Just three years on, Selby senior will be looking down as a proud father of his son who now dominates the sport with three titles in four years. Don't expect that domination to end anytime soon either.

 

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