Ding Junhui wrote himself into the history books by winning six consecutive matches for a landmark victory over Scotland's snooker legend Stephen Hendry at the China Open on Sunday in the nation's capital.
Ding, who turned 18 just two days before, triumphantly lifted the shining trophy in front of Beijing Mayor Wang Qishan and over 1,500 screaming fans.
"I felt very confident amid the supporting crowd," said an excited Ding. "I want to express my appreciation to the people who have helped me over the past years."
Ding, No. 54 in the Tour rankings, gave seven-time world champion Hendry little room to move in Beijing's Haidian stadium in the best-of-17 match before sealing a 9-5 victory.
"This is a significant victory for the country," said Hu Jianguo, director of the national ball games administrative center. "Ding's success is the result of years of hard work as well as the achievement of generations of snooker players in China."
Ding's successes have helped the sport gain increasing popularity in a country traditionally dominated by badminton and table tennis.
"I saw several games Ding played on TV and I found them very interesting," said Li Wei, a sports fan who was at the final. "I came here and I was totally entranced by the game and it even reminded me of the 2004 Athens Olympics."
Dubbed the Oriental Star, Ding injected fresh blood into the British-dominated sport with his first Asian Championship title in 2002, making him the youngest-ever regional champ. He rapidly progressed to the Main Tour after becoming the first Chinese to win the World Youth Championships.
Ding then reached the top 16 at the 2004 British Open and the quarter-finals at the Wembley Masters this year before taking the title yesterday.
"He is a talented player and has great potential," said world No. 1 Ronnie O'Sullivan. "I think he will be a leading player in the pro tours in the future."
World No. 9 Peter Ebdon, who was second to Ding in the tournament quarter-finals, called Ding the best teenage player he had seen in recent years and a top contender for the world championship.
(China Daily April 4, 2005)