Sunny Akani and Lim Kok Leong graduate from Asia-Oceania Q School

Credit: WPBSACredit: WPBSA
Credit: WPBSA
Thailand’s Sunny Akani and Malaysia’s Lim Kok Leong emerged from the opening event of the 2024 Asia-Oceania Q School in Bangkok and are both set to feature on the professional circuit in the coming months.

Running alongside the UK Q School that is being held on the other side of the world in Leicester, nearly 100 players representing 12 different Asian nations entered the third staging of this particular Q School iteration which offers four World Snooker Tour cards across two events.

29-year-old Lim - a multiple-time national champion and winner of the 2022 IBSF World Amateur Championship - will join the sport’s top tier for the first time and line up next to fellow countryman Rory Thor who requalified via this same route 12 months ago.

Lim survived a deciding frame finish in his second match of the tournament over Nepal’s Saroj Gautam before winning his following three fixtures with spare change.

In the final round against 2020 WSF Junior Open champion and former professional Gao Yang (China), Lim hit breaks of 94 and 50 on his way to the hill and then came through a seventh and final frame to oust his opponent, 4-3.

For Gao, it is the second time in a matter of months that he has been denied tour promotion at the last hurdle; earlier this year he lost in the final of the WSF Championship in Albania.

Akani (full name Akani Songsermsawad) regains professional status following a two-year hiatus. He initially qualified for the premier circuit in 2015 when he won the Asian Under-21 Championship.

With an unorthodox but effective technique, Akani reached two ranking event quarter-finals and endeared himself to UK fans and Ronnie O’Sullivan when he nearly eliminated ‘The Rocket’ in the last 16 of the 2017 UK Championship; an event that O’Sullivan went on to win.

The Thai cueist, though, was relegated from the pro ranks following the 2021/22 season, and after narrowly missing out on an immediate return via the UK Q School (losing in the final round in a deciding frame), he has not been in the limelight since (apart from a 6-red appearance in 2023). Having gone back home, Akani was carving out a new career making cues as he continued to recover from the effects of Long Covid.

However, his late decision to enter this year’s Asia-Oceania Q School on home soil was a successful one. After a close call against compatriot Pongsakron Chongjairak (4-3) in his first match, he dropped only one frame in his next three victories before top scoring with a 115 in a 4-2 win over Lan Yuhao (China) in the penultimate round.

At the final hurdle, the 28-year-old made an 81 clearance in frame three to move 3-0 ahead of opponent Ali Gharahgozlou from Iran.

However, Gharahgozlou rallied, taking frames four and five before claiming the multiple penalty points he required on the colours in frame six. Akani, though, was not to be denied, and after his opponent went in-off on the final blue, he doubled the blue and later the pink to win 4-2.

Both Lim and Akani secure tour cards for the 2024/25 and 2025/26 seasons. With the implementation in recent seasons of a guaranteed £20,000 ‘wage’, it will be interesting to see if both graduates will appear in all events this upcoming term which starts in just a few weeks time at the Championship League Ranking Event.

The second event at the BSAT Academy in the Thai capital will begin on Tuesday.