SUNDERLAND cue star Emma Wilkinson tomorrow jets off to Malta in a bid to defend her European title.
The 23-year-old won the prestigious European Eight Ball Pool Federation ladies crown last year – beating Northern Ireland’s Michelle Rooney at the Imperial Hotel, Blackpool.
It was double delight for Emma, who was also part of the English Ladies side which won the team competition.
An extra incentive for Emma, of Millfield, will be that she is hoping to dedicate any possible win to friend Andy Tuthill, who died suddenly aged 48 last year following a heart aneurysm.
While practising at Deptford pub The Landsdowne before leaving for the tournament, Emma said: “I’m confident I can win again.
“I’ve put in loads of practice over the past few weeks, sometimes four or five hours a day, so that should help. I won last time but going into it I didn’t know what to expect and was a bit nervous, but this time I do, so I should be fine.”
Emma’s continued sport success comes after she narrowly avoided tragedy as a youngster.
The reigning World Masters ladies champion was just seven years old when she was knocked down by a car, suffering a fractured skull, swelling on the brain and broken legs.
Possible brain damage was avoided and after being given life-saving emergency surgery, Emma made a full recovery, although admits she often still has problems with her train of thought and speech.
Her proud dad Ray said that although Emma loves being able to compete in tournaments across the country and abroad, it continues to come at a price.
“She is subsidised by the English Pool Association, but she still has to pay to eat when she’s away, which isn’t cheap,” said Ray, 54.
“Emma doesn’t drive so she needs taking places or has to go with other people on her team.
“She’d have to go to America and play the nine-ball if she wanted to make decent money from playing, which would be a few years away.”
The European Championships begin in Malta on Monday, with Emma also set to compete in the World Masters tournament in Blackpool this June and July. Those wanting to offer sponsorship should call 07771 364 128.