Athlete of Elite and Metro Pool clubs B.Narantuya is the first Mongolian player to win a bronze medal at the "IBSF World Snooker Championships 2023" held last month in Doha, Qatar. Her skills, standing with the world champions, inspired the young people to be interested in this sport and instilled hope. She brought home a bronze medal from the Asian Billiards Championship before, as well. She opened a new page of success in Mongolian billiards sport, winning the National Billiards Championship 11 times and the National Billiard and Snooker Championship 12 times. We talked to her about her success.
When you came with a bronze medal from the Asian World Championship, you said you saw the opportunity to succeed in the next World Championship in Doha. You went to Qatar three times and competed with the best billiard players in the world.
Qatar was kind to me. When I set foot there for the first time, I won a bronze medal in the Asian Billiard Championship and paved the way for the success of Mongolian athletes. Every time I represented my country, I made friends with continental and world champions and expanded my circle of acquaintances. Before, none of them knew me and did not know where Mongolia exists. We got to know each other after competing in a few competitions, and now they come and greet me. Our male athletes played well in the team category and reached the quarterfinals. We became each other’s coach, physical therapist, and psychologist during the tournament, and we encouraged and advised each other.
Since you came back with a medal, you have participated in foreign competitions without a break. Can it be considered that your goal that you have thought about for many years has been fulfilled?
I went to Malaysia after winning the medal at the Asian Billiard Championship and lost the medal while competing in the World Billiard Championship. Defeats sharpened me and made me work hard without rest for success. I got psychologically prepared and learned from my mistakes and shortcomings every time I tested my skills from competition to competition. I was afraid of playing for a medal in the World Championship, but I wanted to grab the medal. In a way, it is not easy to think about many things, such as the family, the reputation of my country, and my team members of the club. In the medal match, the hardest thing is to lose to my opponent by a narrow margin of points. At that time, athletes need to control their mind.
You faced strong opponents in the last championship. Was it hard to take them down?
Yes, of course. In the beginning, I was losing to Hong Kongese and Polish athletes and afterwards I won by points. I qualified from my division and competed with Diana Statsny, a German athlete and silver medalist of the World Championship, for the bronze medal. As for me, when I competed in the World Championship for the first time last year, I defeated her and caught the attention of the best. In that tournament, a new acquaintance who had never played with the champions came and beat the world medalist. I didn’t know at the time that she was one of the best. This time, when I played with her again, I thought, “I won one match before, why don’t I win this time?” She was angry that she had lost to me again and left the hall upset. Then she met me outside the hotel and said, “Congratulations, you played well. Change the color of your medal and become a champion.” Athletes lose to one of them during the competition, but after that, they wish each other good luck and become good friends.
There are probably many athletes who have become friends since the World Championship finals?
Sure. It was noticed that the athletes became interested in Mongolia and studied how the billiard sport developed because I met them at every tournament. They asked, “When will your country organize the continental and world competitions? If possible, we will go and participate. Mongolians live a nomadic life and organize festivals and horse racing. Is the weather cold or warm now?” It seems like foreign athletes are interested in Mongolian history and culture. And they said “I heard that there was a powerful king named Chinggis Khaan who conquered half the world in Mongolia. How well do you know about your king?” And I answered, “Yes, I know well. Because he is my grandfather.” and they laughed hard.
You participated in the World Championships held in Ankara, Turkey last summer and won a bronze medal. Can you tell us more?
I won a silver medal in the individual American pool category and a bronze medal in the team at the Student Universiade Games held in Taiwan. I was selected to participate in Chinese 8-ball pool billiards at the World Billiard Championships of the Continents held last summer in Ankara. Athletes from China, Hong Kong, Mongolia, South Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam competed as a team. It was not only a rare opportunity but also an honor for a Mongolian to represent the continent from Asia. I played with the Asian “B” team. Team “A” won gold and team “B” won bronze. Continental and world bronze medals were valuable to me. It required sensitivity, skill, talent, and experience.
You had a chance to win Doha’s pool table. How did you feel about that?
I had the opportunity to win gold and silver medals. After defeating the German athlete and securing the bronze medal, my coach said, “You can’t be satisfied with your game even if you leave your fear behind. Play with this energy and change the color of your medal.” Indian athlete Anupama Ramachandran, who played earlier in the Asian Billiard Championship, was up against the silver medalist. I beat her with a score of 3:0 but lost.
She won the Junior World Billiard Championship and won the team category of the World Championship with professional athletes. Even though she is eight years younger than me, she is successful. I am proud of her brave, energetic, and determined performance. I didn’t feel too bad about losing this time against such a strong opponent. Athletes learn from the strengths of their opponents and develop themselves. We will meet later in another match. I will compete with a different mindset in the next tournament because I know the features and methods of her game.
I heard that the world champions are afraid of your eyes, is that true?
How determined the athletes are can be seen from their eyes. Coaches closely observe and study the character, playing technique, and psychological state of their athletes’ opponents. The Thai coach saw my match in the Asian Billiard Championship and said to my coach, "Your athlete’s eyes will bring success one day.”
What did you think when you stood on the medal stand at the IBSF World Snooker Championships 2023?
When I was announced as a Mongolian athlete, I was very proud of my country, my parents, my relatives, my coach who led me to success, my supportive club management, my colleagues, and my friends. I have been friends with billiards since I was a child and I have worked for many years to achieve success. In the past, I have faced many unpleasant things, but I am happy that I overcame them for the sake of my goals. Some people say, “Billiards is not a sport. Can you succeed?, just stop” while there are people who say, “I wish this child will reach success.”
Do Asian countries offer you to play in the national team?
Shortly after winning the bronze medal at the Asian Billiard Championship, the coach from China said, “You can come and train in our country. We are ready to accept you any time.” This World Snooker Championship is very competitive and interesting. Belgian player and 12-time world champion Wendy Jans qualified for the final but returned home without a medal. It’s not easy for the best to defend their title in every tournament they participate in.
I think that your family’s care and dependability have led to your victory many times.
My family members are my loyal fans. I’m trying to reach my goal because my family supports me. My mother was happy to hear that I won a medal at the World Championship and told her relatives and close friends, “My daughter won a bronze medal.” Many people congratulated and encouraged me when I won a medal. At that time, I thought that I should not lose their trust and hope. My parents used to hang my medals from the ceiling of their gers. In addition to my family, the support of many people who have helped me greatly contributes to my success.
I don’t get to know all the beauty of the country I visit, but I come to see its development. When I visit abroad, I first compared it to my home country. I am interested in how the infrastructure, roads, and transport have been developed there. It feels good when I visit how they solved the traffic congestion. Malaysia is more developed than Mongolia. But those who live in poverty cannot find a place to lie or sit. Then I was thankful for the vast plains of my country where anyone could assemble a ger anywhere.
When you went to London last spring, you took part in a competition where professional athletes compete. Please let us know about it.
I found England to be the most pleasant country to live in. And it is the birthplace of billiards. Many of the world’s most famous professional athletes live there. When I went to London last May and met with the coaches of professional athletes, I was interested in the Crucible Theater where the World Championship is held. During my stay there, I played in a tournament where professional athletes competed and made it to the top eight. Before that, at the World Championship of Professional Players held in Thailand in March, I defeated Hong Kong’s athlete, three-time world champion Ng On-yee, and beat the recent World Championship winner Vidya Pillai of India. I also finished in the top eight. At that time, the audience was surprised to see that two champions were defeated by an amateur athlete who was not even seen as the best. None of them expected me to compete strongly because they didn’t know my style of play. Having competed in professional sports twice, I was ranked 50th out of the top 100 and was invited by the English Association of Snooker and Billiards. That’s why I went to London. Now I am aiming to improve my ranking and rank in the top 10. There are international open tournaments in Belgium and Albania in January next year. Next, I will compete in the Women’s Professional Billiards Championship, which will be held in England in April. In this way, I am preparing hard for participating in consecutive competitions. For me, 2024 will probably be the year to challenge myself in major professional tournaments.