RONNIE O'SULLIVAN has handed snooker's next generation a stark warning: Start winning at 18, or you'll never be a great.
The Rocket takes on 15-year-old wonderkid Luca Brecel in the opening match of today's first Power Snooker event in London.
Much like O'Sullivan 20 years ago, Belgian Brecel is being hailed as a child prodigy after scooping national and European titles.
But O'Sullivan, 34, has seen Bristol talent Judd Trump, now 21 and often hyped up as his natural successor, struggle to match that tag.
The Essex Exocet became the youngest winner of a ranking title at 17 at the UK Championship in 1993.
And seven-time world champion Stephen Hendry was also on the ranking event honours board at 18.
O'Sullivan said: "I am a great believer in doing it now. You hear people saying 'he needs the experience, give him another few years'.
"There is no time to wait a few years. All great players come on the scene and hit the ground running. Bang.
"Look at Tiger Woods, Stephen Hendry, Mike Tyson and Michael Schumacher. All great players do it early.
"They are quick learners, they don't need years of experience. They grab it by the scruff of the neck, it's like shelling peas for them.
"For Judd Trump, the learning curve is over at 21. He's been a pro a while. When you get to 18 you should be starting to win things. It will be the same for Luca.
"Judd has now won a Tour Championship event this year, not a full ranking title - and he must kick on from that.
"He has got the talent, but he has to start turning that into major ranking tournament victories.
"You don't want to be in ranking semis and quarters all your life, you have to start winning things when it matters."
Brecel, who turns professional next season, handed out a 4-1 drubbing to Hendry at an exhibition in Bruges earlier this year.
He said: "I have set myself a goal of being world champion by 19."
Eight players compete for the £35,000 top-prize in today's eagerly-awaited Power Snooker event at London's indigO2 arena.
World champion Neil Robertson faces Shaun Murphy, Jimmy White plays Ding Junhui and Mark Selby is up against Ali Carter in the other quarter-finals.
ITV4 will show all four first-round matches live from 1pm with the semis and final starting at 6pm.
POWER Snooker are offering Sun readers £5 off each ticket for today's fantastic event at the indigO2 arena in London.
Simply click the tournament website http://www.powersnooker.com/tickets and quote thesun to get your fiver off.
OK this is another installment of the Sun's campaign to promote powers snooker and as usual the title/trailer is much more provocative than the content itself.
But I think this could provide a good base for a discussion.
I personally think there is a lot of truth in this: indeed if a person has the talent and the personality to achieve in something - be it sports, arts or sciences - it rarely needs years to manifest itself. Most great mathematicians (that's my field) displayed their potential already as teens and made their most important contributions before they were 25. But as always when it's about human beings, there is the general trend and then there is the individual as well as the circumstances of their life.
What's your view?
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