One of the most outspoken characters in sport was all but ready to pack in snooker for good in 2011 following a testing and unproductive period in his career. 'The Rocket' was only a three-time world champion and 35 years of age at the time, when he struggled to have the same impact on the major circuit following such rampant success earlier in his career.
However, it was his collaboration with Dr. Steve Peters that convinced him to come back to the baize in what turned out to be a prosperous partnership. And it was in the wake of this year's World Championship win over Judd Trump that O'Sullivan revealed the extent of Peters' input.
"If it hadn’t have been for Steve Peters I would probably be in some hot country like Portugal living in a nice beach house and coming to the UK once every six weeks to see my family," praised the 47-year-old. “I had the talent, I had the game. . .if I was on it was great, but if I was off I was looking for the exit doors, thinking ‘It’s time to go home’, because I didn’t enjoy digging it out.
“But I’ve learned that nobody can be perfect all the time, so just accept it, get on with it, make best with what you’ve got and you just don’t know what’s round the corner.
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"It’s like a bit of optimism but it still needs to be drummed into me. I always seem to fear the worst – that’s my natural state, really, so I have to fight against a lot of the demons. But I’m here, I’m competing and yeah, it was good!”
Former Masters sprinter Peters is most widely renowned for his work with British Cycling, earning major plaudits from Team GB superstars like Sir Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton. It's with his help that British cycling has ushered in an era of unprecedented Olympic success, while he's also linked up with Liverpool and England's men's football team in the past.
The effect of O'Sullivan's partnership with Peters didn't take long to show. The Rocket returned to win back-to-back World Championships in 2012 and 2013, clinching the latter despite taking a year off from all other snooker competitions.
Peters has also acknowledged O'Sullivan was hesitant to work with him at first, but the pair "formed a link and it’s got better and better." The snooker icon now needs just one more title success at the Crucible to move clear of Stephen Hendry's record once and for all, having claimed two of the past three trophies on offer.
His story is a testament to the power of the mind and demonstrates how much even those at the peak of their respective fields can struggle. O'Sullivan now enters 2023 with a wave of possibilities ahead of him, though he's certain the latter stages of his career would have been far different were it not for Peters.