No site dedicated to the sportspeople who, for whatever reason(s), failed to fulfil their potential would be complete without the inclusion of the granddaddy of them all, English professional snooker player James ‘Jimmy’ White. A precocious teenager, White became English Amateur Champion in 1979 and World Amateur Champion in 1980. Having turned professional, he was still a month shy of his nineteenth birthday when he made his debut in the World Snooker Championship at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield in April, 1981. He lost 10-8 to the eventual winner, Steve Davis, in the first round on that occasion.
White reached the first of six World Championship finals in 1984, again losing out to Davis, 18-16, in the best-of-35-frames match. He did not reach the final again until 1990, but having lost 18-12 to ‘The Wonder Bairn’, Stephen Hendry, he would fall victim to the Scotsman in three of the next four World Championship finals. In between times, White was losing finalist again, going down 18-11 to John Parrott, but it was Hendry who was his principal antagonist. In 1992, White surrendered a 14-8 lead to lose 18-14 and, following an 18-5 drubbing in 1993, missed a routine black, off its spot, when leading in the deciding frame in 1994, eventually losing 18-17.
White, who turns 60 in May, 2022, is still on the World Snooker Tour, albeit thanks to two-year invitational card, which will keep him in the professional ranks until the end of the 2022/23 season. However, time is running out for the man they still call ‘The Whirlwind’ and he seems destined to be known for ever more as the ‘best player never to win the World Chanpionship’. Let’s not forget, though, that he has won 23 professional events, including the UK Championship, Masters and eight other ranking titles, and was ranked in the top 16 players in the world for over two decades.