Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Crucible Countdown: Quizzing CJ

CJ De Mooi is one of a few famous faces you will see in and out of the Crucible this year.

The former Eggheads brainbox loves his snooker and has become a popular figure at the bigger venues on the circuit. He's a regular in Sheffield and when he visits it evokes great memories for him as he's also performed on the stage of the theatre.

CJ is a fountain of knowledge when it comes to life on the baize.

OnCue spoke to him in the build-up to the World Championship to find out how he got into the game, why he's hooked and what he thinks ahead of this year's tournament.

How did you first get into snooker?

I can't remember an exact moment but one of my earliest memories was watching Eddie Charlton play. You would have thought that would put me off of snooker but I remember seeing it on TV and being absolutely fascinated. I've watched it ever since.

I was still at school when the 1985 world final revolutionised snooker but I got hooked just before that. I remember the battles between Cliff Thorburn and Terry Griffiths in the early 1980s.

I loved most of the great players of that era but I never got the hang of Alex Higgins. I could never see the fascination other people had with him.

I'm not a massive sports fan but snooker just seems to taken my interest. I've tried watching other sports but none of them mean anything to me. Every time I watch snooker, it comes out of the screen and I can watch it. It's one of my earliest memories and it automatically connected to me. Maybe just as a young child I saw the pretty colours and it was nice to look at. 

Have you got a favourite player of all-time?

This is a really difficult question because how can you judge so many great players? Like most people I would count Stephen Hendry as the greatest and Ronnie O'Sullivan as the most naturally-gifted but I tend to choose players who I think redefined the game at certain points in time.

It's tempting to pick people like Steve Davis or Ronnie but I have to say Jimmy White simply because he massively popularised the game. I know he would swap all his wins and achievements for one world title but, in some ways, that's made him even more popular.

How does the game differ now to when you started out watching it?

You had players dominate in the past. Ray Reardon won six world titles in the 1970s although he didn't dominate the game. He just happened to be very successful in the World Championship. You had Steve Davis in the 1980s with six and Stephen Hendry won seven in the 1990s.

I wouldn't mind seeing one player becoming the number one and a player to beat in every tournament. We've got Mark Selby there at the moment but he's never reached a UK Championship final and has only reached one World Championship final.

You can probably count Judd Trump as a player everyone wants to beat but still there are so many top quality players and I think we will continue to get lots of different winners of ranking events for a while.

You've been a regular at the Crucible for a few seasons now. What are your plans this year?

I can only make three days because of my plate tour. It really upsets me. I'm delighted to be doing my tour but last year I went to 10 or 11 days of the tournament. If I don't have to work, I'd be there every day. That's how much I love it.

Who do you think will do well this year?

I'm going to put my neck on the block here and say there will be some very big names casualties in the first round because of the pressure. I think Mark Allen and Trump will go out in the first two rounds. I'd love to see Shaun Murphy do well and I think someone from the lower end of the top 16 get to the semi-finals. I wouldn't be surprised to see Stuart Bingham at the quarter-finals at the least.

It's one of the most difficult World Championships to call but I think John Higgins will win his fifth world title. He's been a little out of form but he'll have some time in the longer matches to settle in and tends to get stronger and stronger in the bigger tournaments.

Why is the Crucible special for you?

I've performed on the Crucible stage a number of times so it's always nice for me to go back because of that. I love the venue for snooker because of its great moments.

One of my favourites was Steve Davis beating John Higgins 13-11 in the second round in 2010. Steve got a standing ovation every time he came out and then when he won it, the place erupted and the match on the other table had to stop. That's what the Crucible is all about for me.

The support Steve got made him believe he could win that. That's what the Crucible can do. Results like that make the venue special.

You're known for your quizzing and you did the Snooker Eggheads in 2010. Did you enjoy that?

I loved every second of that. The snooker World Championship is my specialist subject. I was annoyed and still haven't forgiven John Parrott for beating me. Some of the questions were difficult. One question required seven answers to get it correct.

It was great. It combined quizzing, performance and my love of snooker.

We've talked about your snooker, but where does your love for quizzing come from?

The Eggheads that I started studying above casual quizzing.

It sounds incredibly nerdy but I love reading all the little stats in snooker. I wouldn't do it for any other sport. I don't really watch any other sport apart from snooker. I love the stats and pointless facts. I just like knowing them all.

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