Sports awards: Small wonder Wigston teenager Joe's in frame for award
Joe O'Connor might be small in stature – but he towers above all his rivals in the pool world. The diminutive 17-year-old, from Wigston, continued his rapid rise to stardom in 2012 by being crowned the junior world and European champion in eight-ball pool.
Add to that two more world and European titles as a key member of a victorious England team, as well as making it a hat-trick of singles success in Leicester's Tuesday Night League and winning the equivalent in the Everards Thursday & District League, and it has been quite a year for O'Connor.
That has put him squarely in the frame as a main contender for the Leicester Mercury Young Sportsman of the Year award.
In February, he became European junior eight-ball singles champion for the second time in three years, in Dublin.
For good measure, O'Connor, who was a Mercury Sports Awards runner-up in 2009, made it a Dublin double when he helped England to the team title, repeating his feat of two years earlier.
O'Connor is no stranger to success, having twice won the junior World Masters title and a host of other top national trophies since taking up pool at the age of 11, as well as being a regular in the England set-up for the past three years.
But the best was to come in June.
He travelled to the Imperial Hotel in Blackpool for the World Eight-Ball Championships as one of the favourites for the world junior title.
Having been beaten in the final the previous year, he was out to make amends this time around and cement his standing as the game's brightest star.
He did it the hard way, though, needing a final-frame decider to see off England juniors team-mate Callum Singleton 8-7 in the final.
"That was definitely the biggest win of my life," said O'Connor, who is studying A-levels at Guthlaxton College, Wigston.
"A lot of people said I was one of the big favourites for the title, so there was high expectation on me.
"But I managed to do it and I'm really pleased. I now feel like I'm the one everyone else has to beat.
"This was the last one on my list of titles that I wanted to win as a junior, and now I've got the full set."
O'Connor was not content with the one title in Blackpool, going on to help England juniors retain their team title.
He now has his sights set on winning world and European titles at under-21 level and, in the longer term, becoming a professional snooker player.
To nominate an athlete or team, complete the form in the Mercury, or fill it in online at:
Nominations close on December 4.