Heathrow womens’ snooker ace to take on the World in Malta
Heathrow town planner Suzie Opacic, 29, is set to take on the world and fly the flag for Great Britain in the World Women’s Snooker Championship in Malta this March. Ranked number 7 in the world, we caught up with Suzie to find out more about how she juggles working at the UK’s busiest airport with playing snooker on the world stage, as well as the rise of women’s game.
Suzie first picked up a cue when she 8-years-old after seeing the game on TV and by age 9 was playing on full size tables. A traditionally male dominated sport, Suzie found she had a competitive edge and a drive to win in competitions as a youngster that mainly pitted her against boys.
In 2006 Suzie became the World Ladies Junior Champion yet despite this was not allowed to play at some clubs around the country at the time due to historical “no women” rules. Since then, the atmosphere has changed, the circuit attracts more funding and publicity, and the game is on the rise as a result.
These days Suzie is not only putting in hours of snooker practice to compete on the women’s world circuit, but also working hard on the town planning elements of Heathrow’s high-profile expansion project. In recognition of her incredible talent, Heathrow is providing sponsorship for Suzie to attend the Women’s World Championships this March.
What is your favourite part of working at Heathrow?
Suzie: As a town planner you can’t get much bigger or more complex than an infrastructure scheme that involves building a new runway and expanding one of the world’s busiest airports.
It’s exciting to come into work each day knowing you’re having an influence on a scheme that will have a lasting legacy for years to come, both at a local level and nationally.
What are the biggest challenges you face with balancing your career and snooker?
For me the biggest challenge is time, as it’s a fine balance to strike between work and managing to find the time to practice. Heathrow has been really good at allowing me the time off to attend competitions where required and I do love the challenge of balancing a career I’m passionate about, with the game I love.
Only a handful of women on the world circuit are able to play full-time and that does provide an even greater challenge for me though in terms of matching them in competition.
How has women’s snooker changed since you began your career?
The women’s circuit previously faced quite a few obstacles with raising its profile and funding – luckily there’s a real drive now by World Snooker to increase participation, inclusivity and diversity in the game. This does seem to be incentivising more women to play which is in turn increasing standards.
If the current bid for snooker to be included in the Olympics is successful I believe this will help things even more.
What is your biggest highlight from your snooker career to date?
My biggest highlight was becoming World Ladies Junior Champion in 2006. It was my first World ladies event and I had entered on bit of a whim. I’d only started taking snooker a bit more seriously that year, when I was 17, largely because I could drive myself to the club to practice.
My ranking peak was 5th, and I had some pleasing results last season including semi-finals of the World Ladies 10 reds and coming runner up in the World Doubles – beating the World No1 on route to the final.
What advice would you give to other people wanting to get into snooker?
Just give it a go! There are a lot of local clubs and leagues, with divisions to suit players of all standards. Being in a snooker team is also a really great social activity, despite it being an ‘individual sport’.
For kids, there are a lot more children-friendly snooker clubs that hold organised junior sessions with players from 5 upwards welcome – provided they can just about reach the table of course.
And, what advice would you give to someone wanting to work at Heathrow?
Just like the snooker, I’d say go for it! There are so many different career opportunities available at Heathrow and it’s a great and varied place to work.
With the Heathrow expansion project now in the planning phase there are going to be even more opportunities to be involved with one of the most exciting infrastructure schemes in the UK.
Good luck from all of us at Heathrow!
Heathrow Expansion Director Emma Gilthorpe has wished Suzie good luck ahead of the World Championships.
“We’re proud to be supporting Suzie as she takes on the world at the World Women’s Snooker Championship and from all of us at Heathrow we wish her the best of luck for the competition,” Emma Gilthorpe said.
“Suzie is not only a terrific Heathrow colleague who lives our values and is working hard on one of the biggest infrastructure projects in the UK’s history, but also someone who is doing great things to raise the profile of women’s sport.”
The WSF World Womens’s Snooker Championship runs from 14-24 March.