Agony for Amit after SEA Games gold slips away

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Cheska Centeno and Rubilen Amit celebrate after winning gold and silver medals, respectively, in the women’s 9-ball singles event of the 29th Southeast Asian Games billiards competition Sunday at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Center. Pool photo

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – Rubilen Amit was in extraordinarily high spirits on Saturday, after she and fellow cue artist Chezka Centeno arranged an all-Filipina final in the women’s 9-ball singles event at the 29th Southeast Asian Games.

Amit expressed relief that the pressure was now off for both of them, having accomplished their chief goal of securing a 1-2 finish for the Philippines in their event.

But on Sunday at Hall 4 of the KLCC, Amit was admittedly in despair after the gold medal slipped through her fingers because of a shocking and uncharacteristic mistake.

“Masaya na ako kahapon eh,” Amit said afterward. “Biglang sinapol ako ng ganito.”

“Sabi ko nga, Lord, matatalo na lang ako, ang sakit pa,” she also said.

Amit was already comfortably ahead, 3-0 and then 5-2, against the younger Centeno, who nevertheless rallied back and even reached hill first, 6-5, before Amit tied the match anew. Needing just one more rack to win and breaking in the 13th rack, it appeared as though Amit was poised to win the gold.

She was just three balls away from the mint when disaster struck. Amit sank the 7-ball in the left corner pocket, and it looked as though the cue ball was on its way to set up the 9-ball at the perfect angle. It did not work out that way, however, and Amit could only let out an anguished yell as the cue sank into a side pocket.

“When I hit it, I felt I hit it well,” said Amit, who explained that she was considering several modes of attack for the 7-ball before eventually deciding on the “safer” option that she believes was the smart move.

“When I saw it going into the side pocket, napasigaw ako kasi kahit ulitin ko ‘yun at sadyain ko na pumasok sa side, hindi ko magagawa ‘yun. Very unlikely lang,” she said. “Ang sakit, kasi I felt good about the game.”

Indeed, after Centeno cleaned up the 8- and 9-balls to secure the gold, the first thing Amit did – after hugging her teammate – was to set up the balls again and try to recreate the shot that blew her chances.

“Kahit mga teammates ko, sabi ang malas naman. Kahit parents ni Chezka, they went to me right away and hugged me. Talagang malas lang,” said Amit.

Ultimately, she believes it was her own cautious approach that spelled her end.

“Noong nag-six-all, tapos ‘pag break ko, maganda, sabi ko, iingatan ko na,” said Amit. “Ayun – iningatan. Sobrang ingat, nag-scratch.”

Yet Amit made it clear that Centeno very much deserved the win, especially after seeing how the 19-year-old cue artist refused to give up and came back from a 0-3 deficit. “She played well, she played steady,” Amit said of her teammate.

“But … hindi ko talaga ma-deny na I felt really disappointed with how it went, and how the turnout became,” said Amit, who also lost to Centeno in the final of the same event in the 2015 SEA Games. “Parang akin na eh.”

Even as she admits that she will feel the sting of the loss for a while, Amit still managed to crack a joke.

“Hindi bale,” she said. “Pag-uwi ko ng Pilipinas, ‘yung silver papakulayan ko ng gold.”

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