Higgins To Face O'Sullivan In Scottish Open Quarters

Health Kick Helps Kurt

Kurt Maflin has cut out sugary foods and started a fitness regime in a bid to build on his top 32 status.

The 31-year-old reached the last 16 of three ranking events last season, following a run to the semi-finals of the Players Championship Grand Finals in 2013. He’s into the world’s top 32 for the first time in his career and hopes the only way is up.

Maflin realised his physical health needed to improve if he was to take the next forward steps in his career, and has acted accordingly.

“I’ve lost a stone and I want to lose another stone,” he said. “I’m walking for around two hours a day, taking my son Neon to school and then going to the club, as well as some cycling and swimming.

“I’ve changed my diet significantly. I’m only eating twice a day now and it’s much more healthy. I’ve cut out bread, fizzy drinks, chips and chocolate. Now I mainly eat salad, tuna fish, chicken, fruit – that kind of thing.

“For the first ten days it was hard, but after that I lost the craving for the sugary stuff. My stomach has shrunk so I don’t get as hungry as I used to around lunchtime. Now I can go from 9am until 5pm without eating, apart from having the odd banana or pear. I feel a lot better about myself.

“In a European Tour event it’s very hard for me to win three matches in a day. Not because of my game, but because of how I feel physically. By the third match I feel absolutely drained. You might play your first match at 9am and your third match at 9pm, so you need to be able to keep it going for those 12 hours. I was 16 and a half stone which is a lot of weight to carry around, so my body gets tired more quickly than other players. At my height, I should be more like 14 and a half. It’s a massive factor.”

Born and raised in London, Maflin moved to Oslo a decade ago after meeting Norwegian ladies player Anita Rizutti. Neon is now six and they have settled happily. But the packed snooker calendar and Maflin’s success on the green baize in recent seasons have made it increasingly hard for him to commute from Norway to the UK to compete on the circuit. A permanent move to the UK for the family has been mulled over for some time.

“We are looking at moving next year,” said Maflin, who originally turned pro in 2001 then gave up snooker for several years before being encouraged back into it by an Oslo businessman.

“Nothing is concrete and it partly depends on how I get on this season. I’d like to climb a bit higher up the rankings. My main aim this season is to win a tournament, no two ways about it. If I do well over the next few months then we’ll definitely be looking at making the move before the start of next season.

“Anita and Neon are happy to do it. It’s just a case of finding Neon a school, especially as he doesn’t speak much English at the moment, and finding a job for Anita, as well as finding a place to live. Plus Anita has a daughter who I have known for 12 years and she is looking to get a flat at the moment. So there’s a lot to juggle. It’s not all done with a click of the fingers, these things take a bit of working out.”

Maflin, the 2006 World Amateur Champion, has made two official 147s and is widely recognised as a superb break-builder. But he recognises the need to practise longer and harder if he is to fulfil his talent.

“I haven’t played well for the last six to ten months,” he admits. “My results have been ok, and my ranking would suggest I’m on the up, but in fact my performances have not been good for a while. It’s down to a lack of work. I am practising, but not hard enough. There’s a big difference between spending three hours just playing without any real focus, and spending three hours working on specific things with the intention to improve. I am trying to practise with more structure. My dad coaches me but he lives in London so I don’t see him that much, although I do try to come to the UK a few days before a tournament so I can spend some time with him. My safety has never been great so I am working on that, although there’s no point having a good safety game if you can’t pot balls, so I have to play to my strength which is break-building.

“If I put the work in then I believe I am good enough to win a tournament. When my game is the way I want it, I feel as if I can beat anyone. It gives me a boost, to know I am one of the best 32 players in the world. My target now is to get closer to the top 16 and to qualify for the World Grand Prix and the Championship League, which will give me the chance to earn extra money.”

Away from snooker, Maflin enjoys playing and watching football with Neon. He added: “Handball and ice hockey are probably the most popular sports in Norway, and football comes after that – people aren’t obsessed about it the way they are in the UK. Our local team is VĂ¥lerenga, its only ten minutes away and I’m going to take Neon to a game soon. The stadium holds around 34,000 people and it’s a good atmosphere.”