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Trust healthcare worker wins World Disability Billiards and Snooker championship

Trust healthcare worker wins World Disability Billiards and Snooker championship
15 June 2017

A healthcare assistant at Humber NHS Foundation Trust has been crowned a World Disability Billiards and Snooker (WDBS) Champion.

Michael Gillespie, who works at a mental health inpatient unit, won the visual impairment category of the Paul Hunter Disability Classic, the largest competition of its kind for people with hearing and visual difficulties.

Michael said: “I feel very proud. It wasn’t easy winning against my fellow competitors, who were outstanding.

“I trained very hard in the run-up to the competition, practising every day to perfect my technique.

“The tournament was very well organised and we played with the same snooker balls used by the professionals in World Snooker.

“Winning the title is a real achievement and I look forward to defending it at the WDBS Hull Open, at Tradewell Snooker Club, in November.”

Michael’s love for snooker began in his boyhood when he watched his father play in a local snooker hall.

He said: “I loved to watch him play and was eager to take part. Eventually my dad allowed me to pick up a cue and I’ve been hooked ever since.

“I started to play in competitions in Hull and the East Riding when I was 18, and I was part of the team that won Hull’s Premier League back in 1989.”

However, Mike’s playing career was jeopardised by a series of tragic events which began when a work-related accident resulted in him losing one of his eyes.

Mike said: “When I lost my eye it took me some time to play again because I was embarrassed. 

“At first I had to wear a shield to allow my eye to heal. It was a piece of glass shaped like an eye which helped my eyelid keep its shape. 

“When I returned to my snooker club I would stay in the snooker room and ask club members or mates to get my drinks from the bar because I felt self-conscious. 

“It took me a month to be able to hit the cue ball correctly. I had to adjust my stance and the way I looked at the cue ball and object balls. 

“It also took hard work at the snooker table, with long hours practising the same shot over and over again.” 

Unfortunately, six months after the accident, Mike’s other eye was damaged in a car crash and the subsequent growth of a cataract. 

Mike was unable to play snooker until he underwent lens replacement surgery in 2015.

He said: “The sight in my remaining eye is much better following the surgery.

“It has allowed me to continue to play snooker, a game I’m passionate about.”