On the occasion of the award “player of the year” title to Choi at the Supergala in Antwerp,you can see below a brief interview of him. Kozoom/Frits Bakker: Where in Korea did you grow up, in which city, in what sort of a family, what was your childhood like? Sung-Won Choi:I was born in Busan, the second largest city in Korea with 4,5 half million people, three hundred miles south of Seoul. I have one older brother, and I had a rather carefree childhood. I did well in school, loved to play outside with my friends. I liked ball sports, but as a kid, I had not chosen a sport yet.
Kozoom/FB: How and when did you first try your hand at billiards? Sung-Won Choi:When I was young, my dad had a small billiard room in Busan. When I was nine, I played on a small table, a type of pool table which is very popular in Korea. My dad gave up the billiard room, and I no longer played billiards for a while. I got interested again in high school, when me and my friends started to play.
Kozoom/FB: When did you realize you had a talent, and when did you start to play on the match table? Sung-Won Choi:I was 25 or thereabouts, had come out of the military (21 to 23). I first saw a full-size table and heard that major championships were played in 3-cushion. It was in 2002 that I registered with the Korean federation, and started to play tournaments. Two years later, I won my first national event, with a 1.666 average over seven matches. It was my first podium finish, I was an unknown to everyone.’
Kozoom/FB: That was your breakthrough in your own country, but pretty soon you made a name for yourself internationally. Sung-Won Choi:It took about five years before I could win big tournaments. The Antalya World Cup, the Agipi Masters, being runner-up in the WC in Porto. But of course, this year is the high point, with the WC in Seoul. Korean billiards and all the fans have waited for this for years.
Kozoom/FB: What was that final day of the WC like for you? The followers of the game call you a man with nerves of steel, a killer who can win without playing monster averages. Sung-Won Choi:Of course I was tense on the final day, but you have to be in order to play well. At the top level, you need to be mentally strong, you need to be able to take your chances and keep scoring under pressure. That is probably one of my qualities. I had that even as a little kid, playing on the street. I always want to win, no matter what the game is.
Kozoom/FB: What happened after you had won the title? Sung-Won Choi:The joy and the release were immense. It was a great moment, the happiest moment of my life. I almost could not believe it. To win the world title in a final with Torbjörn Blomdahl, in my own country, in front of such a crowd, it was fantastic. It will always be in my memory.
Kozoom/FB: Were your father, mother, brother there to witness it? Sung-Won Choi:They were not in the room, unfortunately. It was too hard to travel 300 miles to Seoul on the final day. But of course they watched it all on television.
Kozoom/FB: The week after must have been hectic. Sung-Won Choi:It was as if I lived in a parallel universe, the calls for interviews came in non-stop, as well as the invitations and celebrations. I wanted to prepare for the Hurghada World Cup, but in that entire week I only managed to squeeze in one practice game. I arrive in Hurghada totally unprepared, tired from the trip and not feeling in control of the balls at all. It was no surprise that I was eliminated by Eddy Leppens.
Kozoom/FB: How much is true of the story that a Korean world champion is rewarded with a large sum of money or a monthly payment for the rest of his life? Sung-Won Choi:I am still not quite sure how that reward system works. It is based on ranking points, the more points, the higher the reward. With my title, I have earned twenty points, but Olympic gold and world titles in more prominent sports will give you many more points. From what I have heard, I should now receive two hundred euro for the rest of my life.’ Choi is married to Jia Kim and has a three year old daughter.