INSIGHTS & HIGHLIGHTS
World Pool Champion - June 1998
My Dad introduced me to the game of pool in 1986 when I was nine.
The reason Dad introduced me to pool is because he recognised that I was struggling in the ordinary world of sport, where communication played a large part.
Here was a sport where I had a chance to be in complete control - to do something for myself and not have to rely on any form of communication or sound.
For the first time in my life, I was able to improve at something with absolutely no help from anyone at all and simply by watching, I learnt the trade and progressed.
First, I played for the local team in the local league on the Isle of Sheppey where I was born - but this wasn't without its problems.
By the age of 11, I was beating grown men and shortly, many pubs started introducing a ban on children under 14 playing after 8pm.
I don't know why, but I get the feeling that I might have hurt their pride!
That didn't stop me and by 14 I was representing my county - Kent, at senior level.
This would not have been possible without my incredible father who would pick me up from my boarding school to play in the local league on a Wednesday night - despite the fact that I resided at a boarding school near Brighton from Mondays to Friday.
This meant a 166 mile round trip - twice, to pick me up and drop me off! All to gain experience.
I left school with nine GCSE's - crediting the fact I would not have done so had they not been a dedicated school for the deaf, with their wonderful facilities and incredible teachers.
However, the local authority would not provide me with a qualified notetaker for my A-levels and it soon because painfully obvious that there was no guarantee I'd continue to achieve the grades I seek, and so I threw myself into treating pool as a 'job' for the next eighteen months.
If - by eighteen, I had not made it as a professional then it would be back to the drawing board, to seek an alternative career.
Fortunately, my hard work and determination paid off and not only had I turned professional by my eighteenth birthday, but I was also representing my country, England.
My career went from strength to strength, travelling all over the world for tournaments.
I won various titles at home as well as abroad, eventually culminating in winning the world title in 1998 at the tender age of 21.
To this day, I remain the youngest-ever winner of a world title, something I am immensely proud of.
The years between 1997 and 2003 were the golden years for me. Not only was I part of the most successful England Mens National Team who won the world title on no less than 5 out of 7 occasions, I was also ranked No 1 in the world for three years.
In between tournaments, I dedicated a lot of time to charity fundraising. I recognised that my public profile within the sport meant I could use the advantage to raise the profile as well as funds for a number of charities closest to my heart, but performing pool exhibition events.
It was during the pool exhibitions, aimed at entertaining crowds that I honed my performing skills but it also gave me the opportunity as a platform to speak - especially at charity events where I was able to relay the importance and difference that people like them made through first hand experience.
I hung up my pool cue competitively in 2011 to focus on caring for my terminally ill parents and then subsequently to be a husband to my wife and father to my two young children.