When he was named one of the Hong Kong Sports Institute’s (HKSI) Most Outstanding Junior Athletes of 2017, Robbie James Capito decided to dedicate his award to his late father.
“I would like to give this honour to my dad in heaven because I could not show him my gold medal before he left, so I will continue to work hard for him. [That’s my] goal,” the aspiring billiards star says.
With this aim in mind, Robbie, 16, decided last year to move to Lam Tai Fai College. The school has an athlete cooperation programme with the HKSI, and he hoped to start training full-time.
“The support provided by my school and the HKSI allows me to continue my sports training and studies in parallel,” Robbie says. “And since I moved to the HKSI athlete hostel, they have been incredibly supportive, and have allowed me to take my billiards training to a new level.”
Robbie, whose parents are Filipino but who was born and raised in Hong Kong, had an amazing 2017 in which he claimed a gold medal in the boys’ singles at the Asian World Pool Championships, and a silver in the boys’ under-17 category at the Junior World 9-ball Championships.
This was hardly a fluke, however; he has been playing the sport since he was about two years old.
“It all started when my mother bought me a mini-table from Toys ’R’ Us. I really enjoyed playing it,” Robbie says.
“When I was around five, my dad realised I had both a strong interest in and talent for playing billiards, so he took me to a pool room and let me practise with full-sized tables.
“Then when I was around eight or nine, my father signed me up for a training course where I met my current coach. [I] started playing really seriously, doing really well in youth competitions and, ultimately, made it onto the Hong Kong team.”
Most people think billiards is just a game people play for fun, but Robbie says the atmosphere in tournaments is extremely competitive and intense.
“In billiards, the mental [aspect] is definitely more important than the physical one,” he explains.
“At our level, everyone has good skills, so the mental game – staying calm all the time – is very important. This is so especially before a big-money game because, let’s face it, everyone wants money.”
Clearly, Robbie has taken his mental game to a new level, and he has no plans of slowing down.
He hopes to be the world’s best billiards player – not just in Hong Kong.
“It has always been a childhood dream of mine to become a world number one and a world champion, and I’m absolutely going to keep chasing that goal,” he says.
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Robbie’s story is all the more incredible considering that he recovered from what he called the toughest year of his life in 2016.
“I wasn’t a full-time athlete yet, I wasn’t getting any good results, and I was extremely depressed,” explains Robbie. “I was able to get through it with the help of my teachers, coaches and friends. They encouraged me to keep going.”
He says the clichéd advice to “work hard and never give up” is the most important piece of advice you can give someone.
“You have to work hard to be successful, there’s no way around it,” Robbie adds. “Work for hours a day, make sure you’re exhausted by the time you finish training. That would be my advice.”