SEA Games affirms Centeno as future of PH billiards, says Amit
MANILA, Philippines – As pool icon Efren “Bata” Reyes wrapped up what could be his last tour of duty for flag and country in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games, the search for his successor has already commenced.
While it remains uncertain as to when Reyes will call it a day, one Filipina cue artist believes that billiards prodigy Chezka Centeno deserves to be the rightful heir to his throne.
Rubilen Amit, the first Filipina pool athlete to ever win a world championship, is fully convinced that the Zamboanga City native has the perfect credentials to take up the mantle and be the future face of the well-entrenched billiards scene in the Philippines.
“I'm sure that aside from she's the present, she is also the future. At a young age, she is such a talented pool player. She has achieved so much, but you will still notice that she is still shy and very humble,” said the two-time 10-ball world champion.
“That’s one thing I am really grateful for, that if someone will follow in the footsteps of our greatest pool players, it’s her,” Amit added.
Centeno started playing billiards at the age of 5 before being discovered at 8 years old when she competed in local tournaments in her hometown. Then just a few years later, Centeno’s reputation began to grow internationally.
The 20-year-old Centeno first made headlines when she defeated Amit for the women’s 9-ball gold medal in the 2015 SEA Games in Singapore.
Ever since bowing to Centeno in the regional biennial meet 4 years ago, a top-podium finish eluded Amit, dropping two more championship matches to the younger star – including their faceoff for the women’s 10-ball title in this year’s SEA Games where she suffered a 7-3 defeat.
A day after, Amit finally caught a break against Centeno after scoring a decisive 7-3 win over her compatriot in the women's 9-ball finals.
Revenge was not in the mind of Amit as she used her match against Centeno as part of her preparation for the World Women 9-Ball Championship in Hainan, China.
“I never treated it as a regular game. It’s the SEA Games, but it had a Filipino versus Filipino in the finals” she said. “Since I am preparing for the world championship as well, I have to sharpen my killer instinct.
“I am very happy with my performance.”
Amit shot down speculations that she and Centeno agreed to split the outcomes of both contests.
“Someone mentioned that we should split both 9-ball and 10-ball. But it’s our respect for the game. Another reason is once you retire, you have an incentive based on your achievements. So I don't want to take it away from her. If she could win 3 gold medals, then she wins 3,” she explained.
Amit lauded Centeno’s aggressiveness, particularly her pocketing and breaking skills on the pool table.
“Any time of the day, I won’t win against her pocketing. Her confidence was there. I am impressed, especially her break-and-run style,” she shared.
Both ladies teamed up for the women’s 9-ball doubles in the SEA Games, proving to be a lethal combination as they beat the Indonesian tandem of Fathrah Masum and Nony Andilah in the finals, 7-0.
As Centeno climbs her way up the ladder to reach the upper echelon of the billiards world, it gives Amit plenty of hope for Philippine pool, especially since the sport’s luster is no longer comparable to its heydays.
“She’s only 20 years old. If I were 20 years old again, I don’t think I would win a game against her,” said Amit. “Chezka is amazing. She will win a world championship someday, and she won’t win just one world title. She's going to win a lot.” – Rappler.com