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Published: Wednesday December 18, 2013 MYT 5:44:00 PM
Updated: Thursday December 19, 2013 MYT 12:59:50 AM

Efren still the magician in billiards

Efren Reyes instructing Rubilen Amit, the Philippines’ first woman pool champion and the favourite to win the women’s singles 10-ball pool at the SEA Games.

Efren Reyes instructing Rubilen Amit, the Philippines’ first woman pool champion and the favourite to win the women’s singles 10-ball pool at the SEA Games.

NAYPYITAW: Filipino Efren Reyes will turn 60 years old next year but he has not lost his magic touch in pool.

The two-time world champion Efren, probably the oldest player in this year’s SEA Games, went down 58-100 to Minh Cam Ma of Vietnam in the semi-finals of the 1 cushion carom singles but not after flashing some of his past brilliance and moves.

The man, nicknamed the “Magician” for potting impossible shots and also “Bata” (“kid” in Tagalog), currently also coaches the Philippines team here.

And what makes him still special among the billiards and pool fraternity at the SEA Games is his humility – despite all the achievements and accolades that he has amassed over the years.

“I did not compete in my pet events to give the youngsters a break. I still enjoy the game and decided to give carom a try but the Vietnamese boy is too good. My body is not like before,” said Efren smiling.

When Pampanga-born Efren made his debut in pool at the 1987 SEA Games in Jakarta, he bagged three gold medals.

In the Philippines, he is to pool what Manny Pacquiao is to boxing. They are both adored and even worshipped to some extent!

Efren achieved international recognition when he won the US Open Nine Ball Championships in 1994. He defeated Nick Varner in the final to become the first non-American to win the event.

“I started playing pool at the age of eight. I was staying with an uncle who owned a centre – Lucky 13. I used to play for money by placing high bets. Then, I started to play in tournaments that offered big prize money.”

The biggest prize money he has taken home is US$500,000 (RM1.6mil) en route to winning the World Open Eight-ball Championships in 2006.

“If you calculate, technically, I have been playing for 51 years – that is really long. There have been great memories and I am happy that I have played a part in promoting the game locally and globally.

“Now, I try to promote a healthy playing environment and living. Pool should not be linked with drugs and bad habits. I have given up smoking ... the only stick I hold is the pool stick now,” added Efren, who encourages young enthusiasts to practise diligently to become good at the sport.

One of his charges, Rubilen Amit, who is the Philippines’ first woman pool champion and is currently competing in the Games, said of her mentor: “He is an inspiration to many. I took up the game because of him. There are so many good players but what I like about him is his humility.”

Rubilen is the favourite to win the women’s singles 10-balls pool on Thursday.

The Philippines have one gold medal in the bag with Denis Orcollo and Carlo Biado making it to the final in the men’s singles 10-balls pool.

Meanwhile, Malaysia’s hope of making it a 1-2 finish in the snooker singles 6-balls red event died after Thor Chuan Leong and Moh Keen Hoo crashed out in the semi-finals on Wednesday.

Chuan Leong, who was the snooker singles 15-balls red gold medallist, said: “It was just not our day. All our touches were not there and we were beaten easily.”

Tags / Keywords: billiards, snooker, carom, Efren Reyes, Rubilen Amit, Myanmar, Philippines, SEA Games, Naypyitaw, Nyapidaw

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