A SNOOKER star from Rugby is a man on a fitness mission following his first-round exit from the World Championship.
Chris Wakelin says shedding a stone in weight can catapult him back up the world snooker rankings.
The Rugby potter went down 10-4 against David Gilbert in the first round of the World Championship in just his second appearance at the famous Crucible Theatre in Sheffield on Sunday (April 18).
The world number 63 has endured a bumpy season on the behind-closed-doors circuit – but reached the Gibraltar Open quarter-finals in March after reuniting with old coach Gary Morris.
Wakelin is a seasoned campaigner and believes implementing a health drive over the next 12 months can prove the shot in the arm his career needs.
The determined 29-year-old, whose highest ranking was world number 44 in 2018, said: “In 12 months’ time, I’m going to be a hell of a lot fitter than I am now.
“That’s something that I’ve never really put anything into – I’ve done fitness in the past and been in the gym daily but I’ve never kept it up for more than two or three months at a time.
“I’d like to think that in 12 months, I can improve my game, my fitness and just generally be a better person on and off the table.
“We’re all going through a tough time at the minute and if you can make life better every day just by a little bit, then you’ll do well.
“It’s going to be hard work. I’m going to try and better myself in many ways and the first thing to do is to lose a stone, get myself out on the golf course and relax for a couple of months.
“Considering how my game’s been for the last 18 months, I never expected to get back here, especially this year. I’ve been making some real progress in practice and have been working really hard at my game.
“I feel like I’ve improved a hell of a lot, which I did show in the qualifying but not so much here.”
Wakelin toppled China’s Xiao Guodong in the final round of qualifying to reclaim his tour card and book a first Crucible outing since 2018.
He battled admirably against Gilbert – ranked 48 places above him – on the Sheffield baize but was unable to cope with the 2019 semi-finalist’s blockbuster scoring power.
Gilbert cracked in three century breaks and while Wakelin struck efforts of 81, 54 and 51, he was unable to reach the last 16 for the first time in his career.
He loved entertaining the returning Crucible crowd and hopes a long hard summer of practice can continue his upward trajectory.
The four-time ranking event quarter-finalist added: “It was magic to be back at the Crucible and play in front of fans – it was a delight to be back.
“To actually come through the qualifier, secure my tour card and be back at the Crucible playing in front of a crowd after the year we’ve all had was magic, even though it didn’t go my way.
“I’d like to think I can go deep in a few more tournaments. Considering how my game was three years ago when I got to a couple of quarter-finals and last 16s, my game since then has improved dramatically.
“I’m hoping now that I can keep improving through the summer and keep pushing forward – the goalposts get tighter and tighter every year and if everyone else is improving, you’ve got to step up as well.”
The World Snooker Championship continues until Monday May 3, with coverage on Eurosport, the Eurosport app, and the BBC.