Ding Junhui Going for Gold

Former Northern Ireland Trophy champion returns to Belfast's Waterfront Hall inspired to win again

Ding Junhui is taking inspiration from the exploits of his fellow Chinese athletes in the Olympics as he looks ahead to snooker's Northern Ireland Trophy, which starts on Sunday August 24 at Belfast's Waterfront Hall.

The talented young cueman, who won the ranking tournament at the Belfast venue two years ago, has been following the Olympic Games in Beijing from his base at the World Snooker Academy in Sheffield. 

'I've been watching the Olympics every day. Sometimes it's on very late at night but it doesn't interfere with my practice schedule,' said 21-year-old Ding, who faces Joe Swail or Mark Davis in his first match at the Northern Ireland Trophy on Wednesday, August 27 at 7.30pm.

'It's been fantastic for China in terms of the number of gold medals we have won. That has been very exciting for me and it has definitely made me want to repeat that success in the coming snooker season.'

In beating Ronnie O'Sullivan in the 2006 Northern Ireland Trophy final, Ding became the youngest player to have won three ranking events. However, he has not added to his haul of ranking titles since, and dropped down to No. 11 in the world rankings last season.

'I'm feeling fairly happy about my game,' he added. 'I didn`t win a ranking tournament last season although I did win a major invitation event in Nanjing. I want to do better this time and get higher up the rankings. 

'The Northern Ireland Trophy brings back good memories for me, as winning it was one of the best moments of my career to date. It's a great venue so hopefully that will also inspire me.'

Ding will be joined in Belfast by Liang Wenbo, who reached the quarter-finals at the Crucible last season by beating Swail and Ken Doherty. Liang faces Steve Davis on Sunday, August 24 at 7.30pm. 

The Northern Ireland Trophy, supported by Belfast City Council, runs from August 24 to 31 and features all of snooker's star players including World Champion Ronnie O'Sullivan, defending champion Stephen Maguire, home favourites Mark Allen and Joe Swail, Stephen Hendry, John Higgins, Ken Doherty and Steve Davis.

Tickets for Northern Ireland Trophy matches are still available from Belfast Waterfront Box Office on 028 9033 4455, or via the Waterfront website

Tickets have a Credit/Debit card handling charge of £1 per ticket for bookings made by telephone. Online bookings attract a charge of £1.50 per transaction. A fee of 50p per booking is payable for tickets forwarded by post. 

Article courtesy of Ivan Hirschowitz, World Snooker.com