July 24, 2010 07:57
The new generation of billiards in Korea is led by two sisters, 25-year-old Cha Bo-ram and 23-year-old Cha Yu-ram. Yu-ram's blog has been visited by 1.75 million people, which is perhaps natural given that she is not only a leading pool player but also beautiful.
Bo-ram had in fact quit the baize as she failed to produce results while her younger sister was winning international competitions. For five years out of the sport, Bo-ram worked to become a kindergarten teacher but could not put the allure of pool behind, so she returned in June last year.
Now the two sisters are both on the national team for the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou, China. Yu-ram will represent Korea in pocket ball, and Bo-ram in snooker.
The two sisters started playing tennis when they were little, because their father was determined to make his two daughters into successful athletes, having given up his own dream of becoming a track and field athlete as his family could not support him. "I wanted my daughters to achieve the dream I couldn't," he says. He traveled with the two girls all around the country to find a good coach, moving a dozen times to find the best possible coach.
But Bo-ram and Yu-ram both quit tennis in 2000. "We were somewhere in the middle. We didn't have bright prospects," says Bo-ram about their tennis skills. Watching his daughters get burned by the sun, their father decided to switch to an indoor sport, and alighted on billiards. "I didn't know what pool was, but couldn't even argue because tennis was so hard. Anything but tennis was all right then," says Yu-ram.
The Cha sisters started taking lessons at the Korea Billiard Academy in Seoul. They quit school when Yu-ram was in her second year in middle school and Bo-ram in the first year of high school. They practiced 10,000 strokes every day. Yu-ram was driven to the verge of quitting the sport once a year. "I couldn't possibly enjoy it. Every day it was training and competing. It was just too much," she recalls. But pool was fun for Bo-ram.
Yet success came to the younger sister first. Although Bo-ram used to be better at tennis than Yu-ram, it was the opposite story in billiards.
Yu-ram became an instant star in September 2006. In a competition in Seoul, Yu-ram played neck-and-neck against Jeanette Lee, a world-famous Korean-American billiard player, and her good looks and ability were immediately recognized. Her name became the most-searched item on Internet portals, and requests for interviews flooded in.
Although they argue at times, their determination to win an Olympic medal is the same. They have been training seven to eight hours a day at the Korea National Training Center in Taeneung since May. But their goals after the Olympics differ. Bo-ram wants to become a coach as she wants to teach her juniors the fun of pool the right way. Yu-ram, on the other hand, does not want to set a clear goal. "If I set my sights only on becoming world champion and achieved it, I think I'd feel very empty afterwards," she says.
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