IT’S dream come true in Austria for Chezka Centeno, who finally nailed the biggest one—the World Pool-Billiards Association (WPA) World 10-Ball Women’s Championship.
“I can hardly believe it—I am your new Women’s World 10-Ball Champion!” said the 24-year-old Centeno on her Facebook page moments after winning her dream trophy via a 9-5 victory over China’s Yu Han in the final on Sunday night at the Sportpark in Klagenfurt, a city in southern Austria near the Slovenian border.
“This journey started when I was a 5-year-old with a dream, and today, I’m living it,” added Centeno, who now joins the ranks of Filipino world pool champions—the great Efren “Bata” Reyes, Francisco “Django” Bustamante, Ronnie Alcano, Dennis Orcollo, Alex Pagulayan (now Canadian), Carlo Pagulagan, Johann Chua and James Aranas.
And, of course, her buddy, two-time world champion Rubilen Amit, who was with her all the way in Austria.
It’s all 14 years of hard work and resiliency for the proud daughter of Zamboanga City.
“This is my first ever world championship since I started campaigning in 2009 and I can’t explain how happy I am,” she told BusinessMirror via overseas call on Monday morning.
Centeno only had Amit as company and, more importantly, confidante, in all her matches.
“I’m really thankful for her [Amit] being with me, helping me during the games,” Centeno said.
Amit exited in the quarterfinals. She parried the gratitude back to the new world champion.
“She already knew the ins and outs of the sport and I just stood by her side, watched her play, and so happy to watch her greatness,” said Amit, 42, and winner of the same tournament in 2009 and 2013.
Centeno rallied from a 4-8 deficit to upset England’s Allison Fisher, 9-8, in the race-to-9 semifinals Saturday. Before that, she beat German Melanie Sussenguth, 9-0, in the round of 16 on Thursday and dethroned Chou Chieh-Yu of Chinese-Taipeu, 9-2, in the quarterfinals Friday.
“Out of 48 players I was able to make it,” said Centeno, who competed in her fourth world championships, failing to get past the quarterfinals last year also in Austria. “That was tough.”
Centeno pocketed the champion’s prize of $50,000 (P2.8 million), the biggest in her career.
“I will give it to my parents and add it to my savings,” the four-time Southeast Asian Games champion said. “I have to be wiser spending my hard-earned money, that’s why I am happy that Rubilen is here supporting me.”
The cue stick and the table are a magnet to Filipino pool stars and Centeno now ranks among those who sacrificed formal education over the sport they love.
She only graduated elementary as she put all her focus on playing billiards throughout the years.
“It’s hard to study if you’re focusing on your billiards career,” said Centeno, who passed high school in favor of pool.
Centeno’s father, Fausto Albert, 57, owns a billiards table in their Zamboanga City home, no wonder she got to be the best in the sport. Josephine is a pure housewife and is now a proud mom of the world champion who’s fifth in a family of six.
Amit, meanwhile, won’t go home empty handed. She $2,000 for making the quarterfinals.
Centeno and Amit flies home Tuesday before preparing for their next competition in Puerto Rico—the Medalla Light Puerto Rico 10-ball Open 2023 from November 7 to 12.
They are also expected to compete in the Asian Indoor Games in February next year in Bangkok.