ZOERSEL - The 41-year-old Japanese Orie Hida was the first ever world champion in women's three-cushion. Thirteen years later she returned to the highest stage in Zoersel (Belgium) this Sunday afternoon. Her emotional feelings were intense and modest when the Japanese anthem sounded through the playing room. With her victory, she took her fourth world title in total. The Asian winner dethroned Dutch Therese Klompenhouwer after two titles. 20-year-young Korean Mi Rae Lee couldn’t deal with the pressure in a final match like last year.
On the closing day of the 7th World championship, Orie Hida first defeated Gülsen Degener in a thriller with a one carom difference (30-29 in 47 innings). The tiny Mi Rae Lee, who looks like a sweet and nice schoolgirl, seemed to be ready for her first gold rush after her win over Danish Marianne Mortensen (30-8 in 26), but paled in the final. The more than twenty years older Japanese was the best in the match between two stylish, but rather slow players, 30-19 in 37.
The gentle smile on the face of the new champion was accompanied by endless bends to her opponent, the referee the spectators in the well filled playroom of De Kapel. Much more than an ’I'm so happy’, with the eyes closed, she could not share with reporters and later in front of Kozoom's cameras. The unmarried Japanese, who revealed in the previous World Cup that she would like to get married and get a baby, is an example of simplicity and kindness in the selective company of ladies billiard.
She was proud and happy with her title, not with the level she played. Neither were all the sixteen players in the field. No one of the players finished over one average, only dethroned Therese Klompenhouwer was close with 0.980. The highest run (eight) was shared by Orie Hida and Mi Rae Lee, who closed her match vs Marianne Mortensen with the best tournament run.
The Danish, for the first time on the World stage, showed up with a small miracle when she outplayed Therese Klompenhouwer, the top favourite at the start. The Dutch was even more disappointed when she saw Mortensen only score eight times in the semi-final and didn’t reach 0.400 of average.
The Asian final makes clear that ladies billiard in South Korea and Japan has more and younger talents than Europe. Therese Klompenhouwer was the only one to break the hegemony with two consecutive titles in 2015 and 2016. The future of ladies three cushion, also emphasized by Orie Hida, is in the hands of Mi Rae Lee, who demonstrated in this tournament her wonderful technic and stroke, but struggled too many ups and downs and couldn’t strike at the decisive moments, like in last year’s final against Therese Klompenhouwer.
The seventh world championship was not the tournament of lots of highlights. Two matches, by Therese Klompenhouwer and Orie Hida in 15 and 17 innings, and the final run of Mi Rae Lee (eight) were the best to watch in three days at this world stage. In addition to the young Korean, no new talents showed up. The podium was further reserved for the established players who meet already for many years in World champions and other international tournaments.
The Belgian Danielle le Bruyn couldn’t reach the final round: not so strange because she worked very hard in the preparation for the tournament. Gülsen Degener, who never played a final at a World championship, was never so close. She had a real chance to beat Orie Hida after a good start (ten caramboles ahead), but was struck by a setback in the second part and missed a place in the final on one point. ,,I was ready to finally conquer the title’’, Gülsen said afterwards. ,,But I hope to find the inspiration to keep on playing and get back strong.’’
The final ranking (average, best runs):
1 Orie Hida (Japan) 0.878-8
2 Mi Rae Lee (South Korea) 0.640-8
3 Gülsen Degener (Turkey) 0.703-6
3 Marianne Mortensen (Denmark) 0.601-6
5 Therese Klompenhouwer (The Netherlands) 0.980-5
6 Shin Young Lee (South Korea) 0.744-5
7 Jaimie Buelens (Belgium) 0.569-4
8 Namiko Hayashi (Japan) 0.545-3.