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Carom Billiard - 3-Cushion - World Championship - Sharm El Sheikh (EGY)

Torbjörn Blomdahl, phenom: billiards the most fantastic sport

Posted by on December 5, 2021

Torbjörn Blomdahl, phenom: billiards the most fantastic sport

© Paul Brekelmans
Torbjörn Blomdahl on the terras in Sharm El Sheikh between to major events

SHARM EL SHEIKH - The moment of truth has finally arrived. Torbjörn Blomdahl, the 59-year-old Swede, had more than two years, to be precise 737 days, to enjoy his sixth and for the time being last world title in three-cushion billiards. The reigning champion, who is in the final days of his magnificent career, looks top fit, in great shape and ready to shine again in this field of top guns. ''These were not the best of years to cherish my world title'', he realises on the eve of the 73rd World Championship in Sharm El Sheikh, on a sunny terrace with a view on the Red Sea. It was in this country, 34 years ago, that Torbjörn won his first world title: in Cairo, 1987, just 25 years old, the new huge talent, successor to the great Raymond Ceulemans and a whole life of billiards ahead of him.

Torbjörn Blomdahl, born in Gothenburg, Sweden (26 October 1962), living in Backnang, Germany, has been world champion six times, the last two titles in the last five years, he won 44 World Cups, by far the most of all global billiard players, is the current world number three and wants to continue at top level for at least five more years. ''I don't have that absolute urge to score and win a lot more. I want to play more with pleasure, but I still love billiards just as much. And I sure will give it all for it. Billiards is the most fantastic sport I can imagine.''

Kozoom sought him out for an interview in the days before the World Championships in Sharm El Sheikh. The story ('I can't be more honest') is about titles, contenders, cultures, past, present, future, professionals and amateurs, ambitions and his last years as a pro billiard player: ''I like to give something back to my sport one day.''

Kozoom/Frits Bakker: The comparison between two greats is certainly justified. When Raymond Ceulemans became world champion in three-cushion in Luxembourg 2001 for the last time, he was 64 years old. You were his successor, you are 59 now, still five years younger. How realistic is it to think that Torbjörn Blomdahl will become world champion at least one more time?
Torbjörn Blomdahl: Of course, I don't exclude it, because I showed that I can still play good billiards in the last World Cup. But there are a bit too many ups-and-downs, 40 in 10 innings, a run of 22, but also lesser games. Raymond Ceulemans did a great job for his last World title, but times were not the same, there was less competition. What speaks in my favour is that I have won two of the last five world titles. But if I were an outsider, I wouldn't put my money on me. And if I don't win this world title, I wouldn't be disappointed.

Kozoom/FB: It has been a total of 737 days - precisely counting - that you have been the reigning world champion. How wonderful, but also how turbulent has it been, that period, for a top player, used to playing a lot, travelling a lot, enjoying your world title?
Torbjörn Blomdahl: It is mainly unfortunate that I got such a long break at this age. I would have preferred to take advantage of the many ranking points and the benefits that brings in terms of my tickets for the World Cups. On the other hand, two years of enjoying a world title is not given to everyone. But otherwise, that turbulent years were very special for everyone. And in my sport: I couldn't play for seven months, because all the clubs were closed and because I didn't have a match table at home. It's lucky that I stayed healthy, but what a time this has been..., how nice that we could finally start again.

Torbjörn Blomdahl in one of his last events running up to the World Championship

Kozoom/FB: Did you know that only one person has ever been world champion for longer without playing? Augusto Vergez from Argentina, from 1938 to 1948. Ever heard of him? By the way, what is your knowledge of the history of three cushion?
Torbjörn Blomdahl: I've never heard of this man, to be honest. What I know from history is that Edmond Soussa from Egypt was the first world champion, that Raymond Ceulemans won a lot of titles, but I don't know much about statistics. I don't live in the past, I look at the next match and the next event. I started playing billiards when I was 11 years old, so I've been playing for 48 years now. My motto and philosophy is: don't look back too much. I want to put my energy into training a lot and playing a lot of matches.

Kozoom/FB: But if we may, I would like to take a look at the past: your first world title, in 1987, also happened to be in Egypt, in Cairo, with a 1.099 average. And with the American Frank Torres and Mexican Arturo Bone on two and three on the podium. What do you remember about that? What was Egypt like then, 34 years ago?
Torbjörn Blomdahl: What I remember most is that I absolutely had to win that championship. The big players had just switched to the BWA, the professional league in that time. It was my duty to win. In the final, I played against Frank Torres, an American, who came much too close. I only won by 50-47. There were very difficult, American tables, which didn't run very well, that's why the averages were very low. It was my first time in Egypt, I had hardly been outside Europe, only a few times to America, when I was just 17, to train. Anyway, we hadn't been to Korea at all. The first time was with Sang Lee, the first real Korean to break through.

Kozoom/FB: We go back to now. How top fit is the reigning champion, what has he done in the COVID era to be physically and mentally ready for the new start and for a hugely important tournament for you, the World Championship? Is your condition optimal? Don't you have any ailments of a man who's almost sixty?
Torbjörn Blomdahl: I've practiced as much as possible, but sometimes not for a long time. As far as my physical condition is concerned, I had problems with my shoulder, first with my right and then with my left. For that ailment, I went to FC Porto for ten weeks to get treatment. I got rid of it for the most part. Especially the left one is well again now, so now I have my stroke well again. What else did I do? I watched a lot of Netflix series, read lots of books, played chess on the internet and prepared food at home, because the restaurants were closed. And the ailments of a sixty year old... Marco (Zanetti) has been struggling physically, I am two years older after my last world title. And it's not getting any better. We shouldn't complain too much, just play billiards, I'm ready for the World Championship, Marco looks sharp too. We should be able to last a few more years.

Kozoom/FB: What have the last World Cups shown, for you personally, in an analysis, how do you estimate the competitors. Who are the big contenders for you to win this World Championship?
Torbjörn Blomdahl: My feeling is that it goes up and down a little bit: a good match followed by a worse one. I am well prepared for the World Championship, but there are many other contenders. How shall I assess the competition? Dani Sánchez is in winning mood, he has an excellent year. He just had a deadly strong group in the last World Cup. Semih Sayginer was fantastic. He is the most complete player of us all in my opinion: technique, strokes, mentality, solutions, speed, defending. His last matches in the World Cup were a true exhibition. What a pleasure to watch. Marco Zanetti was very strong again, despite his discomfort, he is the best of all the top players in position playing, really a very good player, a special man in many ways. Dick Jaspers is Dick Jaspers. I once said, when asked what has changed in billiards compared to long before? I said, only that Jaspers has stopped missing! Jaspers is the number one, always at his best, the only guy who always comes back after a slump in a match. Eddy Merckx has been flying low in the last World Cups, he is not super these days, a bit below his usual level, but oh so dangerous. And Haeng Jik Kim is also extremely dangerous once he gets going. Who else? The Turks, Tasdemir, Coklu. The other Koreans, Heo, Choi. The Vietnamese are not here, unfortunately.

Torbjörn Blomdahl, in his best form, running a 22

Kozoom/FB: To go into details about the World Cup in Sharm El Sheikh, what did you find most striking about the fact that the averages were not extremely high and that we saw many and very high runs?
Torbjörn Blomdahl: I don't agree that the averages were not that high. Look at the numbers 1 to 15 in the ranking, all around 1,800 to 2,000. That's because the difference in quality is so little. Averages far over 2 are only played when a match is won 40-10 or 40-20, not when the matches are evenly matched to 40 or 50 and there is lot of defence in the end. The averages were higher than in Veghel, where the tables were different and you had to adjust from one table to another. Here, the eight tables were equal, they were easy and calculable. As far as the high runs are concerned, it is also a matter of running smoothly. In my run of 22, the last 12 were hardly missable. I think that the world record of 28, as the best runs ever, will certainly will be broken at some point. Unfortunately, I was not allowed to continue on that 22, because the match was finished. The systems of the high runs are getting more and more interesting. There are players who like to bring the balls to the corner, another in a zone, another to the long rail, or in the middle of the table. It is the combination, the choice, that is so important. We look at each other a lot to discover theories, but it is certain that we are getting stronger and stronger in these terms.

Kozoom/FB: And then there is also the gab of cultures, of playing styles, the Europeans, the Koreans, the South Americans.
Torbjörn Blomdahl: For the real experts, it's very recognisable: the Korean style and culture, the European, the South American. The familiar and recognisable players who play a lot on speed, who play the balls softly, calculated, with certain risks. The players who can score from all positions, like Sánchez and Sayginer, often also Jaspers. The way Jaspers made his last point against Zanetti was not normal. We have the typical defenders, I mention Choi, Sayginer (yes, definitely Sayginer, inimitably strong), Zanetti. And yes, about Sayginer: that stroke, that shot, nobody else has it like that. He not only has the widest shoulders, but also the widest arsenal of shots, the most fantastic solutions. Billiards is art with Sayginer.

Kozoom/FB: How eager is Torbjörn Blomdahl still after all those years, all those titles, all that travelling? Where do you get the ambition, the motivation, the commitment to keep performing at such a high level? The commentator at the World Cup said: Torbjörn always says: I am married to billiards!
Torbjörn Blomdahl: Shall I be honest? I'm not as eager as I used to be. I play billiards, I try my best, but it's not a drama if I don't win. It's not as frenetic as in previous years. I don't want to think about the consequences too much anymore, but rather enjoy myself. I do love my sport, still. And as long as I am in the top of the rankings, this is the best thing I can do to finish my career.

Torbjörn Blomdahl, on top of stage at the last World championship

Kozoom/FB: Would you have wanted a different life? Would you have liked to excel in another sport than billiards?
Torbjörn Blomdahl: No, absolutely not, I love my sport. What sport in the world is there where you can still improve at 59 of age? Look who were in the final at the World Cup in Sharm El Sheikh: three of four were almost 60 years old. I really would never have wanted to be a top athlete in any other discipline of the sport.

Kozoom/FB: Where does billiards/three cushion stand in its current development? Has the world federation turned more and more towards professionalism? And what does that mean for the absolute top players?
Torbjörn Blomdahl: We, or the UMB together with us, have made a lot of changes. That has been necessary for the development of our sport. And we are not there yet. The price money has gone up, the number of tournaments, there have been technical changes, in the systems. It is a pity that we have been out for two or three years, because we can still go further with all those developments. We've gone to almost twice as many tournaments as we used to, for example with the Survivals. For professional billiard players, it has all become much better.

Kozoom/FB: How much did the split, with the UMB and the still young professional federation in South Korea, bother you as a major champion? What is your opinion now, more than two years after that sensational shock?

Torbjörn Blomdahl: I don't concern myself with it that much, honestly. Those people are gone, they think they can retire there and just let them. It's their choice. I never watch matches in that competition. Gone is gone. A friend showed me a match between Caudron and a masked man. He made a few points and Caudron missed a few times. Well now. I don't really care. They want to continue and they do what they want. Quite a few players have come back, Morales, Carlsen, Kasidokostas, Piedrabuena and more. I hear that they did not received their money. I really don't care about that, it, it's the way it is.

Kozoom/FB: You, Torbjörn, for whatever reason, were never asked to play in that league. Would you have wanted to or considered doing so otherwise?
Torbjörn Blomdahl: We play for the UMB, the world federation, we belong to the international sports federation, the IOC, so I don't want to leave here at all. It's good that everyone is minding their own business. I feel at home here, when I see that circus on TV, I don't want to be part of it at all.

Kozoom/FB: Can billiards really, as Raymond Ceulemans shows, be played at a reasonable level until the age of 80? You seem like the sort of player who would want to do that.
Torbjörn Blomdahl: Not at all, I don't want to continue that long. I have some other things to do. And I also want to give something back to billiards, without having fixed plans right now. From now on, I will play maybe for another five years, that's enough, if my body still allows it. My hand is a little bit shaking, I don't want it to get worse. But in five years' time, when I am 64, it must be enough.

Kozoom/FB: Your father Lennart was there, last time, when you became world champion in Randers. How will he follow you this time, is he still in good health and following your matches?
Torbjörn Blomdahl: He will certainly not be here in Egypt. Actually, he never watches my matches. When we played the World Championship in Randers, he was kidnapped by people from my club. He was dragged there. But actually, he is far too nervous. He is always waiting for his wife, my mother, to hear what I did. He hasn't played billiards for fifteen years now.

Kozoom/FB: While we are on the subject, would you be able to comment on matches? You have an undeniable talent for it.
Torbjörn Blomdahl: I would love to. The game interests me enormously, everything about billiards is fascinating, I would like to share my knowledge with people and show them how wonderful this sport is.

Kozoom/FB: The equipment is getting more and more important: tables, cloths, cues. What does it say to you that the last three major tournaments (Veghel, Lausanne, Sharm El Sheikh) were won by players with a carbon shaft?
Torbjörn Blomdahl: Yes, it's remarkable that these events were won with that new shafts. But how good is it, I don't know. In snooker nobody plays with carbon, in pool about fifty-fifty, in our three cushion the same, fifty-fifty soon. But it is not like in golf, for example, where the players take another club for each stroke. In billiards, we have to adapt the cue to the stroke, not the other way around. I like what I've been playing with for years, and I definitely don't want to switch in my final years. I like it with the cue that I play with now.

I like it with the cue that I play with now

Kozoom/FB: And finally, you are known to have a reasonable command of ten languages (Swedish, of course, German, English, French, Dutch, Spanish, Danish, Turkish, Italian?). Is it right that you also learned Korean in the Corona days?
Torbjörn Blomdahl: I followed a 250-hour Korean course on the internet. So I can now understand what they say, but it has to get much better. Suppose, I want to start commentating on television in Korea...

Yes or no?
Will you be a trainer or coach of young talents one day?
Torbjörn: Yes
Do you see PBA still existing in five years?
Torbjörn: No
Would you rather play billiards in sportswear than in fancy dress?
Torbjörn: Yes
Will the new world champion become very rich from billiards?
Torbjörn: Yes
Do you fall in love faster with a beautiful woman than with a beautiful billiard table?
Torbjörn: Yes

Thanks for the interview, Torbjörn, good luck at the World Championship this week.

The last major victory, in the 2019 World championship in Randers, Denmark





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My Comments

Very interesting interview
All in all, the reporter seems do not know what he was asking and Mr.T.Blomdahl what he was talking about.

As PBA went on during the last 2 years while UMB stopped all events, the main question should have been on that difference.

This is carom world and this kind of comments clearly prove why carom billiard has gone backward since the collapse of BWA which should have replaced UMB.

I am really worried that the leaders in this sport do not know where they are and heading to now.

Last 2 world Cups were not televised in Korea (where millions of fans watch the games and from where the money is coming from to pay all the bills of UMB), same veterans stood on the podium like last 3 decades.

Is billiard (carom) the most fantastic sport? Yes, for a dozen of players. Not for the public.
If it is true, there must be a bunch of large corporate sponsors for UMB World Cups and World championships. Not at all since UMB was founded. And, BWA went bankrupt naturally.

Before worrying about the future of PBA (glad to hear PBA will be OK next 5 years), I think this is right time for UMB and UMB loyal players worry about their own future.

I am saying this as I want to see UMB survives and PBA continues for the better future of this wonderful sport.
Totally disappointed great player has such small mind.
I guess top players in late 50's age do not care about the future of this sport after they retire or lose competence in a few years or several years maximum.

Message 1/1 - Publish at December 6, 2021 1:13 PM - Edited at December 6, 2021 1:15 PM

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