Arantxa Sanchis, India’s leading cueist headed to defend her World Team Snooker Championship crown in Egypt, had known pin-point clarity all her life on the baize. But then the multi-coloured potting balls started turning blurred during training, and the glare of the lights got blinding. The 24-year-old was diagnosed with Keratoconus, a degenerative eye disease, which threatened to throw her career into the darkest of corners.
However, Sanchis, who seeks treatment through surgery, is determined to not allow this setback stop her from travelling to Sharm El Sheikh to keep the title she won last year.
“I’m stuck with it now. Whatever damage is done won’t get better. So I’ve tried adjusting my game with a little experimenting. I’ve been managing it well so far,” she says. The snooker meet in Egypt will be her first since she found out about her ailment.
It was four months ago that the Pune girl first experienced problems with her vision. She had gone to the PYC Gymkhana for a routine training session. She recalls complaining about her vision going out of focus and the snooker table’s glare affecting her sight. The problems continued to nag her in a few more practice sessions.
“I would have never known it was that bad,” Sanchis says. “It’s a progressive disease and the vision will keep getting worse if not treated. I’m really lucky I got it checked when I did.”
The cueist is scheduled to undergo surgery at the Shankara Nethralaya Eye Hospital in Chennai on her return from the 10-day tournament. The damage already inflicted on her eyes is incurable, but the operation will prevent further deterioration. “I’m still committed to practice and compete,” she says.
Her vision starts to blur a few hours into practice. “At those times I can’t judge where the centre of the ball is. So I’ve spent some time trying to experiment and play by assumption on where the centre is,” says Sanchis, who at 21 was the youngest ever to break into the top four on the Indian circuit.
Headed to her sixth international event, she senses this will be a challenge quite apart from her previous outings. The World 6-Red Snooker Championship, also in Egypt, will be one of the unconquered competitions she will compete in. An MBA gold medallist, Sanchis works as product controller in the finance department of Credit Suisse and can easily fall back on her finance institution job.
However, she is keen that her sporting career, which started with her being named after the Spanish tennis great, doesn’t fizzle out.
“My parents were big tennis fans and since our surnames matched, they decided to name me Arantxa. But I was never any good at tennis,” she says, adding that snooker eventually came about by chance during one of her father’s visits to the Army Club. “My father played there, and once when I accompanied him, my first shot went in and everybody was shocked. I was 14 then,” she recalls.
And she says she won’t let Keratoconus kill her dreams. “I can see my future in snooker clearly,” she added.