Gabica Edges De Luna, Wins Gold In 9-Ball

ANTONIO “Ga-Ga” Gabica ended the country's drought for the first gold medal and found recovery to his loss in the finals of the men's eight-ball event by claiming the nine-ball gold against compatriot and stablemate Jeffrey “The Bull” De Luna (11-7).

The 34 year-old won the all-Philippines clash (11-7) the last cue sports event of the 15th Asian Games at Al-Sadd Sports Club was ended early Tuesday in the morning in Doha, Qatar.

“I'm happy because we're friends and there were no more pressures between us. We feel very happy both of us and we worked as a team.” Gabica quoted as saying in the official website of Doha games.

Gabica who take an early a 4-1 commanding lead took three of the five racks for a comfortable 7-3 lead in the middle of the game.

“I am more confident because I won silver [in 8 ball singles]. When I lost the final I totally forgot the game and focused on the 9-ball event.” He added.

“Before the game we wished each other well and gave each other support and all the hopes that we can extend to one another. We'd like thank the Filipinos here, we felt their support. When I go back to the Philippines I will celebrate with my family.”

“From the very first game we heard them cheering for us and if it's the opponent winning they were all quiet.”

De Luna who rallied from 3-7 deficit and close the match at 7-10 count after Gabica committed a foul shot in the 17th racks added: “ “It's no problem if I lose, it's ok. I'm happy my friend won the gold. I shared in breaking but my friend was very strong. Silver is ok as long as the Philippines won gold.”

Earlier Gabica, a rising star from Bugsy promotion of businessman/ sportsman Ceferino “Perry” Mariano had overcome Jeoung Young Hwa of Korea (11-5) while De Luna, another stalwart of Bugsy upset top seed and two-time defending champion Yang Ching Shun of Taiwan (11-7).

Yang went on to beat Jeoung (11-7) to take bronze and said: “I am very sad I could not defend my title. Though I was the champion from 1998 in Thailand and 2002 in Korea, I made too many mistakes here.”

Not only hero's welcome in the Airport or a possible red carpet in Malacañang Palace (Office of Republic of the Philippines Her Excellency Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo) awaits here in Manila but Gabica, a native of Sarangani province (Glan, South Cotabato) but raise in Lapu-Lapu City will receive a total amount of P2.3 million cash incentive from the Philippine government for a gold and silver medal while De Luna who settled for silver also receive P800,000.

In the distaff side, Liu Shin Mei of Taiwan beat Kwan Esther Suet Yee of Malaysia (7-3) to pocket the gold medal while Pan Xiaoting of China edges Iris Rañola of the Philippines (7-6) to clinch the bronze medal.

Rañola, playing under the banner of Puyat Sports stable on the other hand, bowed to Kwan (4-7) in the final four while Liu beat Pan (7-3) to arrange a titular showdown with Kwan for the elusive gold medal.

Not as fortunate is Rubilen "Bingkay" Amit, also from Puyat Sports stable who bowed out in the round-of-32 after absorbing a 5-7 defeat at the hands of You Ram Cha of Korea. Tournament favorites and reigning world women's 9-ball champion Ga Young Kim of Korea also yielded to Hsiang Lin Tan of Taiwan (4-7) in the preliminary round.

In an early exclusive interview: "I hope my husband (Gabica) will finally win the gold medal. He really wanted it especially after heart-breaking loss in the 8-ball singles finals." said the 33-year-old Jean, wife of Gabica.

Jean revealed with this writer that she is planning to spend Christmas season in her hometown in Toril, Davao (which is located in Southern part of the Philippines) for the celebration of his husband (Gabica) triumph in the said quadrennial meet. Antonio and Jean blessed two siblings, Antonio Jr., a 5-year-old baby boy and Antonela, 1 and 6 months baby girl.

The Philippines has never won a singles event in cue sports in the Asian Games. The country though ruled the 9-Ball doubles competition in the past two staging with Gandy "Yang-Yang" Valle and Romeo "Snooky Rapid Fire" Villanueva doing the feat in the 1998 Bangkok Games, and the duo of Francisco "Django" Bustamante and Antonio "Nickoy" Lining duplicating in the 2002 Busan edition. The event, unfortunately, was scrapped here in Doha games.

Bugsy promotion head businessman/sportsman Ceferino "Perry" Mariano had something to say to his two players. "I would like to congratulate Ga-Ga (Gabica) and Jeff (De Luna). Both of you are proud of our nations."

Billiards and Snooker Congress of the Philippines (BSCP) president Ernesto "Ernie" Fajardo expressed his elation to Gabica's and De Luna triumph in the semi-final round and a 1-2 finish in the finals. "It's hard to express the honor that brought of Gabica and De Luna. In behalf of BSCP we are proud of you."

BSCP chairman and Raya Sports president Yen Macabenta added, " All credit belongs to our players-their talent, their toughness, their will to win. Our role at BSCP is simply to provide the opportunities for them to compete." added Macabenta, also the organizer of 2006 Philippine World Pool Championship won by Ronato "Ronnie Calamba" Alcano, also Bugsy stalwart and former AZBilliards Rookie of the Year.

RP billiards patron Aristeo "Putch" Puyat said. "Good news for us (Philippines)."