CHEZKA CENTENO took up billiards when she was still five years old and played in dimly-lit pool halls in hometown Zamboanga City where she used a beer case to reach the pool table.
Almost two decades later, her unbridled determination and love for the game propelled her to a place where she has a legitimate shot at realizing her life-long dream of becoming a pool champion of the world.
Displaying unbending grit and magnificent shot-making, the 24-year-old Ms. Centeno clawed her way back from the grave and snatched a shock 9-8 hill-hill victory over British legend Allison Fisher Saturday to move on the cusp of ruling the WPA World 10-Ball Women’s Championship in Klagenfurt, Austria.
The many-time Southeast Asian Games gold winner from the Philippines dismantled an 8-4 deficit by stringing together the last five racks including the 17th and final frame where she needed a foul by Ms. Fisher to clean up the rest and pull off one of the biggest, if not the biggest, upsets in the tournament.
The giant-sized triumph catapulted Ms. Centeno straight to the finals against three-time world 9-Ball queen Yu Han of China, who got through with an empathic 9-2 demolition of battle-scarred Kelly Fisher of England.
It could be extra motivation for Ms. Centeno when she tackles Yu in the race-to-nine finale as it was the latter who showed the former’s mentor, two-time world 10-ball winner Rubilen Amit, the door with a 9-3 win in the quarters Friday.
The win also secured Ms. Centeno a cool P1.4 million purse.
But for sure, the former world junior champion would hunger for more — a whopping $50,000 (P2.8 million) — the biggest prize in the history of the women’s event.
It also buried the ghost of the painful past after a 9-7 quarterfinal defeat to Ms. Fisher in the Kamui World Women’s 9-Ball Championship in Atlantic City, New Jersey last January that denied her a chance at a world crown.
Nine months later, she served Ms. Fisher a dish best served cold — revenge. — Joey Villar