The Rocket is on the New Year list to reward a brilliant but controversy-laden snooker career that has seen him crowned world champion five times
Ronnie O’Sullivan has finally got a gong – after once saying it would be “a disgrace” for him to receive an honour.
The Rocket is made an OBE in Thursday’s New Year list for a brilliant but controversy-laden snooker career that has seen him win five world titles and break a host of records.
But the mercurial O’Sullivan, 40, has also regularly found himself in hot water – picking up fines for an assault, a walkout and lewd gestures.
Hailed as a genius and with 56 career titles, O’Sullivan has also had to come through battles with drink, drugs, anxiety and depression.
A love-hate relationship with his sport saw many threats to quit since turning professional in 1992 and two long sabbaticals.
That may partly explain the long overdue recognition for a rebel that has often carried snooker single-handedly, attracting millions of new players and TV viewers.
O’Sullivan said: “I am extremely grateful for this recognition which is a great honour and has made both myself and my family very proud.
“It came as a great surprise to receive my OBE and I would like to take this opportunity to thank all my family, friends and fans who have supported me throughout my career and made this achievement possible.”
Back in 2013, O’Sullivan had said: “It would be a disgrace to give it to someone like me. I’m just not that type of guy, am I?
“As long as I am loved by my fans and my public, and when I die people might still have a look on YouTube and say, ‘This guy played the game better than anyone who ever played,’ then for me that is better than anything.”
Loved by his legion of fans, O’Sullivan has made more century breaks than anyone else (795), more 147 maximum breaks (13) and the fastest ever 147 at 5 mins 20 secs at the Crucible in 1997.
But recognition for his feats has looked overdue for years for one of Britain’s best-known sportsmen – along with several snubs by the BBC’s annual Sports Personality show.
O’Sullivan turned pro at 16 in 1992 – the same year that father Ronnie Sr was sent to prison for a minimum of 18 years for murder.
The following year he became the youngest player to win a ranking event at just 17 – the UK Championship at Preston’s Guild Hall.
But O’Sullivan was handed a two-year suspended sentence and fined £20,000 for assaulting an official at the 1996 World Championship.
And he was stripped of the Irish Masters title in 1998 after cannabis was found in his system.
Despite being seen as the best player, O’Sullivan had to wait until 2001 for a first triumph on the biggest stage – the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield.
That triggered another avalanche of success, though there were setbacks. A mid-match walkout against Stephen Hendry at the 2006 UK Championship saw him fined £21,000.
He almost quit for good in 2011 but renowned sports psychiatrist Dr Steve Peters worked miracles to get the Rocket firing again, helping him to a fourth world title in 2012.
And arguably O’Sullivan’s greatest achievement came 12 months later at the Crucible, when he waltzed to world title No5 despite having taken almost an entire year off.
O’Sullivan says of himself: “I am like my own reality TV show – it could be car crash, it could be good, you never know what you’re going to get.
“I’d be good on Celebrity Big Brother, but I don’t know if I’ve got the balls for it.”
O’Sullivan, in action in two weeks at the prestigious Masters tournament at Alexandra Palace, has already turned down huge sums to be on that and other reality TV programmes.
Sporting Honours in full
Mr Anthony Peter McCOY OBE, for services to horse racing (Hungerford, Berkshire)
Ms Heather Victoria RABBATTS CBE, for public service and services to football and equality (Lower Hardres, Kent)
Commanders of the Order of the British Empire
Mr Denis LAW, for services to football and charity (Altrincham, Cheshire)
Mr Francis LEE, for services to football and charity (Wilmslow, Cheshire)
Mr John SURTEES OBE, for services to motor sport (Lingfield, Surrey)
Officers of the Order of the British Empire
Ms Susan BARKER MBE, for services to broadcasting and charity (Stanton, Gloucestershire)
Mr Christopher Clive FROOME, for services to cycling
Mr Robert Ellis HOWDEN, for services to cycling (Wakefield, West Yorkshire)
Mr Ronald Antonio O’SULLIVAN, for services to snooker (Chigwell, Essex)
Mr Paul William OWEN, for services to canoeing (Wargrave, Berkshire)
Mrs Catherine Mary SABIN, for services to tennis (Much Wenlock, Shropshire)
Mrs Christine Anne WELLINGTON MBE, for services to sport and charity (Bristol)
Members of the Order of the British Empire
Mrs Yvonne Janet ANDERSON, for services to the Special Olympics (Roslin, Midlothian)
Mr Ian Hugh BEGGS, for services to rugby (Belfast)
Mr James Ebenezer CALLANDER, for voluntary services to athletics (Dumfries)
Mr Mark CUETO, for services to rugby (Altrincham, Cheshire)
Mrs Janice Carol EAGLESHAM, for services to disability sport (Cambuslang, Glasgow)
Mr Roger Arnold FENNEMORE, for services to sport (Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire)
Mr Carl FRAMPTON, for services to boxing (London)
Hon Heather Margaret Anne Galloway GALBRAITH, for services to equestrianism (Mauchline, Ayrshire and Arran)
Mrs Pamela Bruce GALLANT, for services to people with special needs, particularly through sport (Aberdeen)
Mr Roy HARRISON, for voluntary service to cricket in Northern Ireland (Craigavon, Armagh)
Miss Stephanie Jayne HOUGHTON, for services to football (Shotton Colliery, Durham)
Mrs Gaynor JONES, for voluntary service to golf and the development of women’s golf in Wales (Mold, Flintshire)
Mr Brian Russell LEE, for services to football (Lane End, Buckinghamshire)
Mrs Dianne McMILLAN, for services to swimming and disability awareness (Larne, Antrim)
Mr Stephen James MILLER, for services to sport (Cramlington, Northumberland)
Mr Ian MIRFIN, for services to disability sport (Cambuslang, Glasgow)
Mr Cargin Nevil MOSS, for services to taekwondo (Little Billing, Northamptonshire)
Ms Tracey NEVILLE, for services to netball (Hitchin, Hertfordshire)
Ms Jacqueline Anne OATLEY, for services to broadcasting and diversity in sport (Esher, Surrey)
Mr Ronald Denham WEBSTER, for services to tennis in Scotland (Crail, Fife)
Mrs Anne WHITWORTH, for services to hockey in the north-east (Guisborough, North Yorkshire)
Miss Fara WILLIAMS, for services to women’s football and charity (Liverpool, Merseyside)