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Former snooker player Willie Thorne dies at 66

By STEVE DOUGLAS AP Sports Writer

Willie Thorne, a former snooker player who was one of Britain’s most distinctive sportsmen in the 1980s because of his bald head, died Wednesday. He was 66.

A message on Thorne’s GoFundMe page said he died after battling leukaemia. He had been placed into an induced coma in the hospital in Spain over the weekend after suffering respiratory failure.

The head of World Snooker said the charismatic Thorne played a big role in the game becoming so popular in Britain in the ’80s, when snooker was at its peak and watched by millions on TV.

“He was a larger-than-life personality and he was a major part of the rebirth of snooker at that time,” Barry Hearn said. “It’s so sad to hear he has passed away and our thoughts are with his family.”

Thorne reached two quarterfinals in the world championship, but won just one ranking title in his career despite being one of the best break-builders in snooker.

He later commentated on the sport for the BBC and appeared on the broadcaster’s popular Saturday night show, “Strictly Come Dancing.”

Thorne admitted to having gambling issues and said he lost 1 million pounds ($1.25 million) to it in his career. He was declared bankrupt in 2016.

One of his closest friends, former England soccer captain Gary Lineker, described Thorne as “one of life’s great characters.

“A marvellous snooker player and a lovely man, who’s potted his final black much too soon,” Lineker wrote on Twitter. “RIP Willie.”

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