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30 Over 30

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No. 30
Precocious Wu Proves World Title Is Kid's Stuff

2005 World Pool Championship . July 10, 2005 . Kaohsiung, Taiwan

As starmaking performances go, this one was a doozy.

Taiwan's Wu Chia-Ching, all of 16 years old, treated the 2005 World Pool Championship like his own personal playground. The kid in 10th grade crushed older opponents under the weight of his monster break. He loped to and from matches with the squinty, half-glazed look of a high-school stoner. In the final against Taiwan's tiny 27-year-old Kuo Po-Cheng, the beefy Wu looked like a school bully about to steal the chess-club captain's lunch money.

It wasn't until Kuo hit the hill in the championship final that Wu proved that he was, in fact, the man.

(Click above to view the final rack
Video provided by Matchroom Sport)

Wu pulled off one of the greatest gut-check performances in the history of pool, running five straight racks to swipe the $75,000 title from Kuo. He dominated the spotlight already trained on the remarkable Taiwanese contingent that placed an astonishing 16 players in the final 64. And he did it all for his grandmather.

"Ever since I was a kid, she gave me all her heart and time to make me the pool player I am today," the sobbing and red-faced Wu said, with grandmother Chu-Chi at his side.

Wu's win wasn't a fluke. A product of Taiwan's highly developed juniors system, Wu turned pro at 14. In the months prior to the WPC, he recorded second- and third-place finishes on the San Miguel Asian 9-Ball Tour. Kuo, a poolroom owner, looked more the part of a rookie than Wu. At 5-feet-2 and 110 pounds, he could blow over in a stiff wind. But his game had the strength and maturity of a sturdy redwood. And he had his own woman to impress - his girlfriend, who celebrated her birthday on the day of the final.

For the first 22 racks in the race-to-17 final, they fell into a pattern. Wu would surge ahead a few games, and then Kuo would tie it up. At 11-11, Kuo made his move. As his girlfriend covered her face, Kuo engineered several swift runouts and goaded Wu into a key foul that left the score 15-11. Kuo soon was on the hill, 16-12.

Would the teenager pack it up? Would he just chalk it up to experience and collect his $35,000 second prize?

"I thought, 'Getting to the world championship final is such an honor, I am not going to give up that honor,'" Wu said later.

Kuo broke and sank the 1, but didn't have a clear shot at the 2. Playing safe, he failed to drive a ball to the rail, giving Wu ball in hand.

Wu cleared the table, and then did that thing that born-winners do - tap into the killer instinct of a rabid pit bull. Exactly when he needed it, his big break started leaving him easy runouts. He blew through rack after rack - long shots, touch shots, even a 4-7 carom in the side.

At 16-16, he broke and sank the 1 and 2. Running to the 6, he sat down and took a long swig from his water bottle, bringing laughter and applause from the audience. For the 9-ball shot, he used the bridge, just to be safe. As the 9 dropped, he held both bridge and cue overhead, creating a giant, joyous "V." Soon, he collapsed, crying in the arms of his grandmother.

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