Anthony Hamilton has withdrawn from the 2020 World Snooker Championship less than 24 hours before the start of the tournament.
Hamilton came through the qualifying rounds just three days ago to secure a first Crucible appearance since 2008, but has now made a rapid u-turn to pull out of the sport’s show-piece event.
Hamilton suffers from Asthma, a lung condition that causes occasional breathing problems, and has cited concerns over his welfare during the tournament – which will feature a reduced capacity crowd.
Around 300 fans are expected to be present for each session of the 17-day competition, which is the only UK indoor sporting event to be piloted for the return of spectators since the enforced ban due to the Covid-19 outbreak.
Strict social distancing measures are set to be in place, but Hamilton has deemed the risk too high and will not take up his spot in Sheffield.
In an interview on Wednesday, Hamilton said: “Let’s say one person gets ill and dies from the Crucible – it’s one person who died for no reason at all, just for entertainment.
“I think it’s ridiculous.
“On a personal front I’m high risk – I’ve got asthma so I’ve been diligent to say the least during this lock-down.
I’ve been shielding, basically. I haven’t been seeing anyone. I’ve been practising on my own, I’ve been washing all my food, cleaning my clothes before going in the house, all that business.
“So to go into a room with 300 people is against the grain for me, I’m not going to be comfortable in there personally.
“I don’t know why anyone is going to be comfortable. Three hundred people for 17 days I think is an absolute risk.
“For entertainment purposes, it’s well out of proportion. I don’t think it’s a good risk at all.”
The Nottingham cueist defeated Scott Donaldson 10-5 in the final qualifying round at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield on Monday.
Hamilton’s withdrawal means eighth seed Kyren Wilson now receives a bye into the Last 16.
The World Championship takes place from July 31 to August 16 and will now feature a 31-player field for the first time.