AN 11-year-old boy beat the record set by an Olympic handball player when he tried a new sport called “street snooker” in Henley.
Ethan Pearce was cheered on by his friends as he attempted to hit coloured targets with a ball to score as many points as possible in a minute.
Click here to watch our video of Ethan's street snooker session, and an overview of how the new sport works.
There was screaming and loud applause as he scored 49 points, smashing the record of 42 set by Bobby White, who was there to witness his eclipse at Makins recreation ground.
The Team GB Olympic handball captain attempted to win back his crown before conceding defeat to his young opponent who is more used to playing football for AFC Henley Hurricanes.
Ethan, of Gainsborough Hill, said: “It felt amazing because he’s an adult and I’m only a kid.”
The youngster was among the families who tried out the game, which was set up in the skate park on Tuesday as part of a family sports and community day organised by housing association Soha.
Henley Town Council paid for the hire and was using the day to test whether it should invest in a permanent street snooker facility. The game was supervised by coaches from Play Innovation, which invented the game.
Players had to kick or throw a ball at the targets on a green wall, each of which carried a different number of points.
In an imitation of snooker, they began by hitting the red target before spinning a wheel to determine where they should take their next kick from.
Then, after taking up their new position, they had to alternate between hitting the red target and one of six coloured targets. Certificates, medals and trophies were presented to the best performers and there was a barbecue at the end of the day.
White, 30, from Milton Keynes, said the game was well received by both the children and adults and some of the youngsters were “super-keen”.
“It’s great that the game’s so simple that a young kid can get a score of 49. There’s nothing too difficult about it and it builds skills that can be used in a lot of other sports. It also gets the kids outdoors and active so they’re not playing computer games all day.”
Among the adults who had a go were Henley Mayor Stefan Gawrysiak, who scored 19 points on his first attempt.
He said: “I can safely say that street snooker seriously puffs you out. I wasn’t happy at all with my performance — I’m quite competitive so I shall be coming back later to have a few more goes.”
The hire cost of £1,000 was split between Oxfordshire County Council and the town council, which wants to improve recreational facilities in Henley and wanted to see whether street snooker would be popular with residents.
It will be seeking feedback over the next few weeks. If the council decides to invest in the game, it will cost about £10,000 and the cost of this week’s trial will be reimbursed.
The council first became aware of street snooker when it refurbished the Jubilee Park sports ground off Reading Road.
Cllr Gawrysiak said: “A lot of councillors didn’t actually know what it was so this was an opportunity to bring it down and let people try it for themselves.
“If there’s a buzz of excitement about it, we will put it in with a mix of other things.
“It would be a serious investment for the council so we have to do it properly if we’re going to do it. It would be here for years and years so I think it would be pretty good value for money.
“I think it’s absolutely superb and the children seem to really enjoy and engage with it. It’s really important for them to have things to do, to be taking part in sport and to be spending their energy in a positive way.”
Marco Boi, managing director of Play Innovation, said the company had installed street snooker courts at 25 public recreation grounds across England.
“It’s really good for the children’s self-esteem,” he said. “The boy who beat Bobby White’s score will go home and tell all his friends and family about it.
“Bobby actually had a private word with me afterwards and said he now feels like he has to beat that record.
“We’ve had some great feedback and we hope the council will make a permanent investment in it.”