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Wednesday, 12 April, 2000, 13:50 GMT 14:50 UK
Fisher prepares for take-off

Kelly Fisher is hoping to claim the World title
With both the Men's and the Women's Embassy World Snooker Championship just around the corner, BBC News Online's Allis Moss meets the woman on top of her game, Kelly Fisher.

Of the 450 players participating in this season's UK Pro-Am Tour, only two were women.

Kelly Fisher came in 140th. Nowhere near the top flight but quite an achievement, all things considered.

If I do lose the World Championship maybe I'll go to the US to see what it's like

Kelly Fisher
However, without any disrespect to Fisher, it may be why even die-hard sport fans do not know who she is. The women's world number one is struggling for recognition and sponsorship.

Despite that, Fisher believes women need to get into snooker and get in young. She wants schools, youth and sports clubs to support them.

Fisher was lucky. She grew up shooting pool in her parent's bar in South Elmsall, near Pontefract, West Yorkshire. Yet she was almost 13 before she had her first shot at snooker, twice the age of Stephen Hendry and Ronnie O'Sullivan when they first started.

Snooker first

Fisher says she always put snooker first. Her parents were supportive. But she admits, "I took quite a bit of time off school, which they weren't really happy about."

Boxing promotor, Barry Hearn, had just taken the top three women players Alison Fisher (no relation), Karen Corr and Stacy Hilliard, under his belt and promised to make their fortunes. Fortes were sponsoring the Ladies World Championship, paying out a total prize fund of 40,000.

The Ladies Committee has worked hard to develop the game without any backing.

Stephen Hendry
A decade on, things have changed for the worse. The winner of this year's Men's World Championship will take home just under 250,000.

His counterpart in the Women's World Championship gets just over two percent of that.

Fisher, now 21 years old and ranked number one in her game for two seasons running, has only been sponsored once in her life.

Newport Snooker Centre paid her 100 a week to move to Wales and raise the game's profile there. She's now in Dudley, in the West Midlands where she gets free table time at her local club.

Hendry supportive

World number one, Stephen Hendry, about to defend his own title, understands her frustrations.

"The Ladies Committee has worked hard to develop the game without any backing," he says. "But at the end of the day unless the WPBSA (World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association) invests properly in the game it's going to go nowhere."

Stephen Hendry says more money should go into the women's game
Fisher compares snooker to tennis as a game that women play with less power but equal skill to men, and puts the level of concentration required on a par with chess.

"To be honest with you it can only go forward," she says.

"The WPBSA are putting more effort into helping the game."

She mentions their latest ideas: Better playing conditions for qualifying rounds, better publicity, a mixed doubles tournament and a cup combining pool and snooker that would pit Britain against the States.

In the meantime, Fisher is young and hungry. Will she be seduced by the lure of big bucks to go and play pool for the big-gun promoters in the States?

"The thing depends on the World Championship. If I'm World Champion I'll stay. That sounds like sour grapes but it isn't. But if I did lose maybe I'll go for a month to see what it's like," she says.

Only time will tell. The Embassy Ladies World Championship begins on Monday 17th April.

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