Carl Morris: Hotshot brings pool to the people

Being born deaf didn't hold him back on the way to becoming world champion. Now his mission is to sprinkle glamour on a popular pub game

Carl Morris has been a beneficiary of the positive power of pool, and is now an agent of it. Born deaf, Morris became eight-ball pool world champion in 1998: a testament clearly to his own endeavour but also to the meritocratic openness of one of Britain's favourite games.

Now secretary of the International Professional Pool Players' Association (IPA), Morris is hoping to harness that inclusiveness and bring pool to the people. The Professional 8 Ball Pool Masters, one of the biggest events of the IPA calendar, will be shown on Sky Sports next month.

And Morris knows the importance of attention. "When they come to televise events, that's the pinnacle of everything," he told The Independent in a Shepherd's Bush pool hall. "It's the best place you'll ever be, because when you play at the tournament, the thrill and adrenaline that you get, it's indescribable. I can remember the feeling from when I won the world championship in 1998. To be called the world No 1, there was no better feeling in the world."

An impressive sporting achievement in itself, it is an even more stirring human one given Morris' disability, although he insists that not being able to hear allows him to cut out noises that might distract his rivals: "It's all about focus and concentration, and the less distractions you have the better. So I think being deaf has helped me improve because naturally I don't get those distractions when I play. I can just go on that table and the whole world just switches off."

The fact that pool gave Morris his chance shows the widely-cast net of the game. "When I got to 15 I had to pick pool or football. And while football is very dependent on a scout spotting you and signing you up, with pool you can go out there and make your own name. That's what I love about it. Anybody can enter tournaments and make their own name, rather than being dependent on someone else spotting you."

That social strength, Morris said, gives pool a potential which has been wasted. It is said to be the third most popular sport in the country, with an estimated five million regular players. "I really believe the reason pool never took off before is because we did not have the right people in charge," Morris said. "It comes down to the right leaders, the right people with the right vision, trying to look after top-level pool and grass-roots players."

The rise of televised darts demonstrates that, with the right presentation, a pub game can become something more glamorous. Why not pool? "We want to build the brand up and make it exciting, not just for pool players, but for people outside of pool."

That lack of engagement is the problem. "In the past, I think the image was totally wrong," he said. "We want to make it more exciting for people. So when people flick the television on, they're actually reading about the pool player as a person. In the past the characters of pool players have been very stifled, like watching robots."

Bold ambitions, but Morris is experienced at this work. Since his world championship he has done remarkable amounts for the National Deaf Children's Society (NDCS), Hearing Dogs for Deaf People and Against Breast Cancer.

"I've always tried to give something back," Morris explained, "I've always done pool exhibitions for charities. Last year I did [exhibitions in] 43 counties in 43 days, and that got a hell of a lot of coverage. We set out to raise £43,000, and we raised £60,000 in total. So far we've raised about £215,000."

Knowing the broad appeal of pool, Morris has created the National Charity Tournament, this to raise money for Against Breast Cancer. "This National Charity Tournament has never been done before," Morris said. "Instead of paying to enter, people do a good deed and raise money for charity. And then they will get free entry into this big tournament which will have about £30,000 prize money." The tournament has been put back to May 2013 due to high levels of interest.

Never satisfied, Morris has gone ever further in his work for Hearing Dogs for Deaf People: "I've done a lot of challenges. For example, I've cycled from the north to the south of Greenland, I've cycled around Cambodia, across the desert in Namibia, and I've raised probably half a million for all those."

Morris also became the first deaf person to walk to the North Pole. He spent a year training for that – dragging a 60kg tyre for a mile in less than 15 minutes. It took him more than one attempt, but he did it, in the mud and rain, more than once leaving him physically sick. It was worth it though, his walk to the Pole raising about £50,000.

Compared with all that, making pool more popular sounds relatively trivial. But Morris knows the value of his story, and hopes that his successes, in sport and charity, can inspire other disabled children to all manner of achievements. "I never really blow my own trumpet," he said, "but I will do that if it helps to make a small disabled kid believe that they can do what I've done.

"There are so many disabled people – not just deaf people – who have so many setbacks in life that they don't have any confidence left. And they start withdrawing into themselves, and become a hermit in some cases. I think that's a really sad thing. I want to go out there and say 'I can't hear a damn thing but look what I've gone and done. And if I've done it, so can you'."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are in need of a HR Manage...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Manager - HR Consultancy - £65,000 OTE

£35000 - £40000 per annum + £65,000 OTE: h2 Recruit Ltd: London, Birmingham, M...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas