- The Ice Man
Mika Immonen was born on December 17, 1972 in Paddington, London, England’s. Christened Mika Ilari after the noted Finnish author Mika Waltari, he was delivered one of two boys alongside fraternal twin brother Kari Jalmari.
Mika and Kari showed early athletic prowess along with a healthy competitive streak and both enjoyed competing in basketball and ice hockey among other popular sports. It would be an unbearably cold winters night that would find a then 16 year old Mika and his friends seeking refuge in the newly opened Blliard Parlor near his childhood home. He watched, mesmerized by this gentleman’s game being played known as Kaisa ( a.k.a. Carolina ), a Russian pocket billiards game using a long table with tight pockets and large balls. That would be his introduction to the first game he learned on the felt and within a year’s time Mika became so adept at Kaisa that he would be encouraged by the parlors owner to play in a tournament in a nearby city and brought home his first tournament victory : a ham!! Soon thereafter the name Mika Immonen would no longer be unknown as he burst into competitive acknowledgement besting the all-time Russian Grandmaster, Ashot Potikyan! This was an amazing feat, and perhaps, to the youngster, a glimpse into his future.
MIka went on to master the more well known game of Snooker and by the late 80’s brought home his first national championship victory. A self-described breakthrough year during that period saw him begin to appear on the 8-ball circuit and after defeating Ralph Souquet he found himself competing against Johnny Archer, Efren Reyes and Francisco Bustamante. The year 1992 found him making results and placing but not closing, a disappointment for the aspiring champ and his supporters as well. Later that year by ironing out sticking points in his game, he would win the first European tour in Belgium and Germany but not without a test of his now well known resolve, against Tom Storm. Later, appearing in Taiwan tournaments, Mika began to fully realize his potential. “I knew I had the guts and talent to do it; it was just about learning it.”
During his mandatory military service in Finland his game would not be put on hold as he was allowed to play on the EuroTour circuit and would maintain his top ranking. A win in 1995 in his hometown of Helsinki would bring him to tears in front of his friends and family, “It was an indication of something bigger”, he would later note. In ’96 he was invited to events in Santa Rosa, California, and would have his first television experience with ESPN, amid such players as CJ Wiley and Takeshi Okumura. He would also travel to North Carolina to train with and learn from Earl Strickland. During this time he would compete in multiple Mosconi Cups and eventually defeat Strickland that same year at the World Championships in Chicago.
The European Championship’s in 1998 saw ‘ The Iceman ‘ at his dominating best defeating Souquet in the Straight Pool finals, and returning the title to Finland after an extended period of German prominence. An avid runner, October of that same year would see him complete his first marathon which he trained for in New York city. He soon fell in love with the city and currently resides there .The phrase ‘ if he could do it there, he could do it anywhere ‘ would often be remembered as he watched his ranking rise in the Billiards Congress of America standings. Jerry Forsythe, in fact, commenting on Mika’s drive noted that “nobody works harder than Mika”. Unabashed by a loss to Corey Deuel at the 2001 Open he saw his hopes dashed but his dreams undeterred – he simply began to work harder at eliminating his second place tendencies. It paid off in a later victory over Efren Reyes that hinted at the new edge to his game.
Throughout the last decade the billiard world has consistently heard the name Mika ‘ The Iceman’ Immonen associated and competing with the top players around the world, and for good reason:
He has toiled tirelessly to become the #1 player in the world. Even this early in his career it is safe to say he is one of Billiards’ all time greats. Player of the Year two years running; Player of the Decade voted by Billiards Digest. Two time consecutive U.S. Open 9 Ball Champion (2008 – 2009). Who knows what the future holds? Combine the desire, drive and work ethic to the raw talent and cool demeanor and you have the pool playing phenom from Finland, “The Iceman,” Mika Immonen.