“Since the launch of the Professional Billiards Team League, I’ve always been a new team, even though I’m not a new team.” This was the first funny comment from Im Rae, who has become the ‘foundation’ of TS JDX Heroes, followed by TS Shampoo Heroes, TS Shampoo Puradak, and Haiwon Resort.
TS Shampoo Puradak, which has been a steady presence in the Team League from the inaugural season to the 22-23 season, has disbanded. Haiwon Resort will now take over.안전놀이터
One of the main players in the professional billiards scene, Lee Im-rae, has been in the same position since the inception of Team League. The team name has changed and the members have changed, but he has remained steadfast. In the LPBA, she is considered to be the ace in the hole, especially in the women’s billiards division, where the pool of players is very small, but there are some very sharp players hiding in plain sight.
“It’s weird being a team league,” Im laughed when we met at a cafe in Seohyeon, Bonji, on the 24th of this month, “because the members are all attached to each other, and now we have to put them back together again. Hi-One Resort released captain Kim Jong-won and other Korean men, including Kim Nam-soo and Kim Lim-kwon, and selected Lee Chung-bok, Nguyen Phung Linh and Nguyen Duc Anh Chien (Vietnam).
Except for its first season, TS Shampoo Puradak has been performing with only domestic players and no foreigners. There was no reason for them to fall behind without a foreigner. Lee Im-rae has been ‘hard-carrying’ the team’s scorecard for the past season, winning the first place award for women’s singles in the team league.
The final report card shows that she played 22 singles matches in the regular season, winning 16 and losing 6, with a winning percentage of 72.7 per cent and a scoring success rate of 50.9 per cent. In the Electric League, he played 13 singles matches, winning 12-1, with a 92.3 per cent winning percentage, an AVG of 1.223 and a 54.9 per cent success rate.
However, he had a bit of a slow period on the individual tour. It’s not like he started off poorly. In 19-20, he never finished outside the top 10. The 20-21 season was a golden one. He swept the NHK Card Championship (3rd), Crown Hae Taek Championship (4th), and Welcome Savings Bank Championship (5th). It was the best season a professional billiards player can have. However, the glory days were short-lived.
Im began to falter psychologically in the very next season (21-22). In his own words, “I went through everything you can go through as a professional athlete,” he says.
There was a time when he couldn’t even stand in front of a pool table. His vision would become blurred. “At that time, the balls became difficult and I was thinking a lot about my balls, was this the way I should be hitting them?” He took a long holiday to the United States to clear his mind. “I also had a lot of conversations with my close friends. He saw people and billiards a little differently.
But he still had a fundamental problem. My thirst for learning was not quenched. In Dongtan, he found Kang Dong-gung (SK Rent-a-Car) and Cha Myung-jong (Incheon City Sports Association) at the Kangcha Billiard Research Academy. It was Cha Myung-jong who caught him at a loss on the pool table.
“I went to him because I wanted to ask him for a ball, but I didn’t know where to start, so I just asked for a friendly game, and he always gave me a one-point lesson every time. After solving my biggest problem, I’m a little better now. I think I got some direction, and now I’m practising to master it.”
His current role model is senior Kang Dong-gung (SK Rent-a-Car), with whom he plays in the PBA Team League but competes in good faith on different teams.
“I look up to Kang’s way of handling the ball as a role model,” said Im, adding, “Personally, I think he doesn’t use unnecessary energy and keeps researching the most optimal way to do things, and I want to learn the feeling of touching the ball the most, and he has a good understanding of the ball, and I learned from watching him that these two things are the most important things.”
“The other thing is that I need to increase my speed, because men and women have different muscle mass from birth, but even if you can’t hit as hard as men, you can still do it, so as a female player, I’m trying to increase my speed and strength as much as I can.”
In the past, he was once interviewed by another media outlet and asked if he has a similar style of playing billiards to Cassidocostas (formerly of Hana Card, now unregistered in the PBA). “That’s my style,” he replied. We asked him about the differences between European and domestic billiards styles.
“I answered that I follow the style of professional Kang Dong-gung, but the direction that professional Kang is going now is the European style of billiards,” he said. “I should say that it is a ball handling style, but it is a style of hitting the ball while controlling my ball and the first shot, and the advantage of domestic billiards is to hit the ball in the most efficient way to score points, but I personally felt that it is different because Europe is more concerned about my ball and the first shot,” he said. His expression was serious as he traced the path of the ball on the screen of his mobile phone on the table.