POOL: PACKING up the Embassy World Championship Trophy and heading for Black-pool has become something of a ritual for Runcorn's five-times winner Sue Thompson.
But she is travelling light to the Fylde Coast this week for her latest defence of the ladies' title.
The 2003 event marked the end of Embassy's sponsorship of the championships and on landing the trophy for a record fifth time, she was allowed to take it home for keeps.
'It's nice not to be cleaning the trophy and taking it back at this time of year,' admits Sue, who starts her singles campaign at the Hilton Hotel tomorrow.
'I have won it five times and am the only woman in history to have done that.
'They now call me the best lady player in the world ever and have let me keep the trophy. I am absolutely chuffed with that.'
With a new cup at stake, the champion is as determined as ever to hold on to her crown.
As world and UK number one, she has been leaving nothing to chance with her preparations.
'I am in good form and looking forward to it,' she says. 'I have been practising three to four hours every day up to the championships.'
Sue won't even know her first opponent until the opening ceremony.
But yesterday she captained Scotland in the sixa-side women's team competition.
She said: 'The team event gets you in the mood for the world championships because all the players are together and the spirit and atmosphere is really good.'
The World Eight-Ball Pool Federation were forced to part company with the long-time world championship backers due to the Government outlawing sponsorship of sporting events by tobacco companies.
'It is a real shame to lose Embassy because they had been such a good sponsor over the 11 years,' admits Sue.
'It was a big loss to pool but now we have 888.com, which is a casino on the net, and it's nice that somebody else has taken over.
'If it's a good world championships this year, they might increase the prize money which for the women has dropped.
'The prize for the men's winner has stayed the same at £10,000 for the winner. But for the ladies, it is now only £2,000 (£500 down on last year).
'That's quite disappointing when players come from all over the world and it costs them a lot to come to play.
'We are fortunate it is in Blackpool, which has been quite a lucky place for me and, fingers crossed, I am hoping it will be lucky for me again.'
Sue was forced to quit as the only female on this country's professional circuit a couple of years ago due to ill health, and hasn't reapplied for her card.
She remains a full-time player and the only woman making a living from the game.
Sue also holds the women's world speed pool record of 37.7 seconds for clearing all 15 balls from the table and continues to be in demand on the exhibition circuit.