Seoul, Korea- Jeanette "Black Widow" Lee and Yu Ram "Little Lightning" Cha were the big winners of the first two days of the MBC ESPN Live Billiards week in Korea. Lee ran through her competition to claim her second consecutive Empress Cup win while Cha finally won The Women's Ultimate Trickshot Challenge after making it to the finals her second time. Both events aired live on MBC ESPN, Korea's #1 sports channel. Both events aired live for three consecutive hours straight and dominated as the #1 show in its time slot.
The strong field of invited players this year included Japan's 8x Player of the Year Akimi Kajitani, WPBA Rookie star Yu Ram Cha (KOR), Turkish 9-Ball Champion Neslihan Gurel, Guam Billiards star Shanelle Loraine, top NYC pool star Bora Jung (KOR), and defending champion Jeanette Lee.
Lee dominated her group in the round robin by defeating Jung and Gurel both 4-0 in complete shut outs to put her in the finals. On the other side Kajitani won a highly anticipated match against Cha 4-2 and then handed Loraine a 4-1 loss to reach the finals against Lee. As a small consolation , Cha defeated Loraine 4-0 while Jung defeated Gurel 4-0 as well.
The final match between Lee and Kajitani was a classic Korea vs Japan rivalry. This was Kajitani's premier week on Korea television, and she quickly gained popularity among the Korean audiences with her top notch play. The finals was a race to two games, two sets, with split sets leading to one sudden death game. Kajitani won the first rack, but then Lee came back for two straight wins with some fist pumps. The second set looked good again for Akimi but Lee again replicated the movie match with two straight games again to win 2-1, 2-1 and the event for her second straight year.
Dragon Promotions is one of the leading producers of billiard programming in the world today. Dragon produces over 40 events a year airing on networks in USA, Korea, India, and Europe such as ESPN, MBC ESPN, XTM, XPORTS, and Euro Sport. Events include The World 14.1 Championship, The Predator International 10-Ball Championship, King & Queen of Carom, Empress Cup, Pro Pool Schools, Women's Trickshot Challenge, World Junior 10-Ball Championships, Korea vs USA, and many more. Dragon also manages some of the world's best players including Raj Hundal, Shanelle Loraine, Rodney Morris, Charlie Williams, Jeanette Lee, Mika Immonen, Mike Davis, Yu Ram Cha and many more. This was the first time Lee had successfully defended her title in an event in several years. Korea has been good to her in terms of wins the past three years with her 1st place titles including 2006 Queen of Carom Champion, 2006 Women's Ultimate Trickshot Champion, 2007 Empress Cup Champion, 2008 Showdown in Seoul Champion, 2008 Korea vs World 3 Cushion Champion, 2008 Korea vs Europe Champion, and 2008 Empress Cup Champion.
"MBC ESPN decided to put us in their primetime slot in the evening, because previously we dominated the ratings during the day so they wanted to take a chance on primetime. Fortunately we didn't disappoint as we kept our #1 status both nights." explained Cindy Lee, CEO of Dragon Promotions the events producer.
But Lee didn't steal all the thunder as the following day Yu Ram Cha was ready to redeem her title shot from 2006 as a finalist against Jeanette Lee in the Women's Ultimate Trickshot. The event again hosted the same ladies from the Empress Cup in a format that let each player do their own demonstartion of artistic shots within a timed 20 minute period. The players were judged by a panel based on three factors; number of attempts and success on a shot, difficulty of shot selections, and entertainment and personality of the player and their show.
Gurel went first in her first ever show , live on TV. Though she was nervous, she put on a good show for the fans and came in with 16 points. Next was Loraine, who finished 2nd place the year before to Ga Young Kim. Loraine had prepared well and scored most of her shots within the second try. Loraine received a perfect score of 9 points(scale of 1-3) on entertainment as she charmed the audiences with her pleasantness and glamour . Loraine would finish 3rd in the event with 22 points.
"Stefano (Pelinga) and Semih really helped us alot when we arrived in Korea. We had practiced beforehand, but they gave us the finishing touches." said Loraine. Pelinga and Sayginer had volunteered to help the girls on their routine on their off day in Korea.
Next was Kajitani who by far chose the most difficult shots. Kajitani unfortunaely was not able to hit the shots within her first two attempts, but came very close and got the audiences approval and gasps. Akimi did make an incredible force follow masse making the cue ball curve an incredible two times changing directions on her first try! Kajitani was the only player to score perfect 3's on shot level difficulty and finished with a total of 21 points for a 4th place finish. Cha was next and she put on an incredible show that the judges could tell was well rehearsed. More importantly, people wondered if the normally shy and introverted Cha could score high on personality. To the surprise to the judges and the audience, Cha made several jokes and charmed the audience and TV throughout her demonstration. Some of her shots were named "Parting the Waters Like Moses" and "Moving Mountains" where after she made one she joked that she could do anything. And when she missed the other, she would say, "Well, who in the world can move a mountain anyway." to the laughters of the crowd. Cha also importantly made 90% of her shots on the first try. Cha scored perfect 3's on attempts and entertainment values for a 25 point total. Finally Lee was the finale, and as a former winner of the event, she didn't disappoint. Lee scored high on her choice of shots and came in perfect on her entertainment value, which was to be expected by everyone. Lee's finale involved the famous Shooting off your mouth Shot in which fellow pro Charlie Williams was asked to participate. Lee presented the shot well and got a great ovation at the end. Everyone knew it would be close between Cha and Lee.
The final scores were tallied and Lee came in at 24 points, just one point shy of tying Cha. Cha had tied with Jeanette in Entertainment value but edged her out in successful attempts. When the winner was announced, Cha looked astonished as she was called out to receive the trophy.
"I didn't think I was going to win, Jeanette is so good at trickshots and with the audience. I was so nervous about this event, and I practiced hard and rehearsed alot of the shots and of course worked on my charm." Cha smilingly admitted. " I wasn;t thinking about winning , but I just didn't want to embarrass myself!"
"I was really shocked at how good her routine was." said Cha's coach and top pro Charlie Williams. I worked with her on some shot selections, but the entertainment value in her routine was all her. She was cracking all of us up and all of us were saying, 'Who taught her that?' "
"This year's event has evolved alot since the first year in 2006. The girls were so well prepared and the level of the shows were extremely high. I was very impressed, " said Jin Hee Ahn, Sportscaster for MBC ESPN.
The MBC ESPN 3rd Annual Empress Cup and 3rd Annual Women's Ultimate Trickshot was sponsored by XTM, Sopooong Department Store, Tony Moly Cosmetics, and Ra Beauty Salons. Official equipment sponsors are Simonis Cloth http://www.iwansimonis.com/, Vigma Balls www.vigma.com , Min Tables, Poison Cues www.poisonbilliards.co.kr , and Predator Cues www.predatorcues.co.kr