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Snooker legend Alex 'Hurricane' Higgins rushed to hospital

Published 01/04/2010

Alex Higgins
Alex Higgins
Alex Higgins won snooker's World Championship at his first attempt in 1972
Alex ''Hurricane'' Higgins in 1980
The close-up picture of Alex Higgins taken by Ulster photographer Cathal McNaughton
Alex Higgins
ALEX HIGGINS Until the robotic Stephen Hendry turned up as a 21-year-old world snooker champion in 1990, Alex "Hurricane" Higgins had been the youngest ever winner of the title, when he beat John Spencer in the best-of-73-frames 1972 final. It was Higgins' first appearance at the tournament and his flamboyant style and break-neck speed around the table earned him the "Hurricane" sobriquet. It is a nickname that could just as easily have applied to his life away from the beize, although the notoriously sedate snooker arena also witnessed its fair share of storms. At the 1986 UK championships, Higgins was fined and disqualified for head-butting a referee. Four years later, after a first round defeat at The Crucible, Higgins punched a tournament official before going on to announce his retirement from the game.
Referee Terry Riley restrains Higgins watched by Jimmy White and shocked members of the audience

Snooker star Alex Higgins was said to be fighting for life in hospital today after being rushed there with suspected pneumonia.

The frail former world champion, who has fought a long battle with throat cancer, was admitted to Belfast City Hospital yesterday with breathing problems.

Doctors managed to stabilise the 61-year-old’s condition but it is understood he is seriously ill.

Fans of the Hurricane have watched his health deteriorate rapidly in recent years. Friends and family have feared for the colourful Belfast player since he was diagnosed with throat cancer over ten years ago. He is in remission but its toll on his body is evident in his gaunt and thin appearance.

Currently living in sheltered housing on the Donegall Road in Belfast, Higgins is considered to be one of the finest snooker players of all time. He has had long-term problems with alcohol and smoking since winning the world title in 1972 and 1982.

The Hurricane’s diagnosis with pneumonia is a major setback to his determination to keep playing snooker professionally.

Despite his numerous fights and rows with referees over the years, he still plays the game regularly and appeared at the Irish Professional Championship in 2005 and 2006. He entered the Northern Ireland Amateur Championship in May last year to “give it a crack” but failed to appear for his opening match.

Higgins has been an inspiration for many of today's best players, including Ken Doherty, Jimmy White and Ronnie O'Sullivan, who said: “Alex was an inspiration to players like Jimmy White and thousands of snooker players all over the country, including me. The way he played at his best is the way I believe the game should be played. It was on the edge, keeping the crowd entertained.”

Video by David Ferrarotto

Belfast Telegraph

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