Ronnie O’Sullivan’s cousin will look to fulfil her own Crucible dreams by competing against the likes of legends such as Jimmy White. Maria Catalano will etch her name into the history books by becoming the first woman to take part in the most prestigious event on the World Seniors Snooker (WSS) tour.
A former world number one and the winner of 11 ranking events, she will contest her first round match against Egypt’s Wael Talaat. It has been a difficult period for Maria who lost her father Antonio in 2018, which impacted her performance.
Therefore, the 40-year-old was close to hanging up her cue, but after receiving the opportunity of lifetime three weeks ago, she jumped at the chance. “I was finding it difficult to practice, just feeling I was getting nothing out of it,” she told The Sheffield Star.
“I didn’t practice a lot and my last season’s results speak for themselves. I feel this opportunity has turned my life a little bit.” Catalano was a late call-up to the event, where she will join the likes of world champions Stephen Hendry, Jimmy White, John Parrott and Ken Doherty. She could even face White in the second round.
She hopes to draw on inspiration from her iconic cousin who captured his record-equalling seventh title at the Crucible on Monday. The world number one broke down in tears after his latest accomplishment, as did Catalano and other members of his family.
"We all watched it as a family, there wasn’t one dry eye in our house,” she said. "We broke down with him. He’s the spitting image of my dad, I see my dad in him a little bit. It was very emotional.” The Rocket produced one of his finest campaigns to match Hendry’s iconic tally, and played superbly to defeat 2019 champion Judd Trump in the final.
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Mark Williams claimed he believed O’Sullivan was the game’s greatest player for a long time and he didn’t need to win another world title for that to be the case. Catalano meanwhile, said she always knew her elder cousin was something special.
"I always knew Ronnie was the greatest,” she added. "I can’t believe he’s my cousin sometimes. We used to spend a lot of time together when I was younger. He helped me out a lot.” The 'Rocket' shared an emotional embrace with his opponent at the end of the match before greeting his children, who ran into the arena to share his historic moment.
The 46-year-old has become the oldest world champion in history, eclipsing the record set by Ray Reardon who was 45 when he won his sixth title aged 45.