WATCH: Gauteng's very own crowned female world pool champion
As Amy-Claire King lines up her pool cue to take the next shot, a tattoo is visible on the wrist of her right hand.
It reads: “For You Mom” and is accompanied by an image of a heart symbol entwined with a pink ribbon.
Even though her mother, Susan Joan, is no longer around, each time the 28-year-old picks up her pool cue, she is reminded of her.
“My mother was always next to me whenever I was playing pool, whether I was practising or competing in tournaments.
“The tattoo is so that whenever I picked up cue or did anything else I was reminded of her.”
A year ago, South Africa’s women’s Eightball pool champion lost her mother to breast cancer.
She had battled the cancer for three years, before eventually succumbing to the illness.
Watching her mother go through chemotherapy sessions, and seeing her in an out of hospital had put severe strain on King’s blossoming pool career.
“The last couple of years have been rough. I’ve really struggled ever since my mom was diagnosed with cancer three years ago. A lot of other things have also happened. My career ultimately took a lot of strain.”
But, while King battled to deal with the huge hole left in her life, she also knew that she had to fulfil her dreams and goals and make her mother proud.
One of Susan Joan’s dreams was for her daughter to become the best female Eightball pool player in the world.
So a few months after the loss of her mother, the Boksburg-born player began plotting her way to do just that.
“I spent a lot of time working on the mental aspects of my game. I read plenty of motivational books. One which stuck with me and which spoke to me the most was a book called ‘Relentless’. I have been dealt so many challenges, but I have always been relentless in achieving my goals. This book really helped me mentally.
“I also spent around five hours each day improving my game and working really hard to become a better player.”
Last weekend, King’s hard work paid off when she was crowned the World Masters Singles champion at the World Eightball Pool Championships in Blackpool.
Not only did King win the singles trophy, but she was also named the player of the tournament and was part of the Proteas ladies team who were crowned world champions.
The team, managed by Anya Roux, included King, Joy Willenberg, Michelle Rabe, Debbie Europa, and Madeleine Olivier.
She also secured joint first in the World Eightball Pool team of the year, while Olivier made the world team too, taking fourth place.
Winning three trophies and officially becoming the best female Eightball pool player in the world, was a bittersweet moment for King: “It was harder to win now. I wish my mother was around to see me my achievements. I had mixed emotions when I won. It’s a lonely place to be without mom, but I still play for her.
“On the day I arrived in Blackpool it was my mother’s birthday. It was a bitter reminder of what I have lost. It was hard.”
King says in a way, the passing of her mother has pushed her even harder to achieve her goals.
As a seven-year-old girl hanging around in pool pubs and learning the sport, it was always her dream to be the best.
“I have been to eight or nine World Championships now and I have always come close, but never been able to pass the finishing line, so this is unbelievable.”
While it’s been a week since she was crowned the best female Eightball player in the world, she says it still hasn’t sunk in. “I have been trying to absorb everything since I have come back. It’s been a really hard year, and I put in a lot of time, so I am really grateful for what I have achieved.”
Asked what it takes to be the world’s best , she says: “Everything. Things like this don’t happen overnight. It takes a lot of hard work dedication and commitment. You have to be relentless in your pursuit of your dreams.
“There was a time when I had to take vitamins for my joints as I was getting severe spasms in my hands when playing pool. But I carried on and worked harder and push myself to my limits.”
King had to stop working for a year to allow her to focus on the tournament.
“It’s a decision I felt I had to make to ensure that I perform at my best level,” she says.
The Joburg pool player is hoping that her team’s win, and her individual wins in Blackpool, will change the landscape of Eightball in South Africa.
Currently Eightball pool players are not supported financially in any way. Team South Africa does not have any sponsors and the government does not fund pool players.
“Getting sponsorship is really tough. We have to work and have jobs just like every other person. To get to Blackpool, my friends arranged a golf day for me to raise funds for my trip.
“People just aren’t willing to jump on board because they see it as a sport played in bars. Hopefully now that we have come back as world champs, things will change.”
She is also hoping that pool players in the country start getting the recognition they deserve.
“When we arrived back in the country, there were a couple of people at the airport, obviously not what it would have been like if the cricket team had won the World Cup.
“It’s sad that people don’t know about how well pool players are doing in the country. They deserve the recognition.”
While King is on cloud nine after her exploits in Blackpool, she cannot spend much time basking in her glory.
She has to turn her attention to getting ready for two major competitions ahead.
Should she be able to raise the money, she will jet off to Morocco in October to compete at the All Africa Games, and then to Cyprus in November to compete at another pool tournament.
“For the All Africa Games we have been told we need to bring R27 000 each, which is a lot of money. I don’t know if we will be able to raise it. We have just come back as world champs. We don’t mind putting in the work, but really need the financial support.”