KUALA LUMPUR: Chezka Centeno saw teammate Rubilen Amit scratch the penultimate ball, enabling her to snatch a surprising and improbable 7-6 win and retain the women’s 9-ball singles gold medal in the 29th Southeast Asian Games billiards tournament at the KLCC Hall 4 on Sunday.
Poised to clean up the 13th and last rack in the race-to-seven finale with the score at 6-all, Amit calmly sank the 7-ball in the left corner pocket for a perfect set-up on the 9-ball – only to see in horror the cue ball rolling and sink in the opposite side pocket.
Centeno, who had rallied from a 2-5 deficit to gain a 6-5 edge in the 11th frame, did not waste the golden opportunity, coolly draining the 9-ball into the right corner pocket to clinch her second straight gold medal in the event.
“I didn’t expect to win this since I missed the 3-ball (in the 12th frame). I thought it’s over,” said the 19-year old Zamboanga City pride of her own blunder in the previous rack when the ball rattled out of the right corner pocket.
“I’m so happy,” added Centeno, who was teary-eyed after her unexpected victory, while his father Mark and mother Josephine, who had witnessed the thrilling contest, embraced her.
“I really was disappointed with the last shot because the chances of it is scratching was slim,” rued Amit after playing second fiddle once again to her junior teammate. “It (the gold) was mine but what can I do?”
She recalled experiencing the same thing in a previous tournament “but not in a crucial shot like this, kaya masakit.”
In her Southeast Asian Games debut, Centeno also beat Amit, 7-5, in the Singapore edition two years ago.
Meanwhile, defending 3,000-meter steeplechase champion Christopher Ulboc flopped while a homegrown quartet bagged a bronze medal in the men’s 4×400-meter relays at the end of the athletics competition at the National Stadium.
Touted as one of the gold-medal prospects, Ulboc’s four-year reign as Southeast Asia’s steeplechase king came to a sorry end, struggling into fifth place with a time of nine minutes and 24.75 seconds.
Dethroning him was Indonesia’s Atjong Tio Purwanto, who finished way ahead in 9:03.24 in securing the gold while Vietnam’s Pham Tien San (9:06.63) and Do Quac Luat (9:08.72) garnered the silver and bronze medals, respectively.
Ironically, Purwanto’s time was slower than the 8:59.07 Ulboc clocked in ruling the event in the 2015 Singapore SEA Games and his 9:01.59 when he first won the gold in the Myanmar edition four years ago.
A source from the national coaching staff said Ulboc’s showing may be due to his differences with his current coach, Rene Herrera, a former SEAG steeplechase gold medalist himself, after his previous mentor migrated to the US.