It took another 10 years for Filipinos to show their supremacy in billiards. Recently, the power duo of James Aranas and Johann Chua claimed the throne of the World Cup of Pool, one of the top three pool tournaments in the world. The Philippines has won this title for the fourth time.
The annual international single-elimination doubles tournament in nine-ball was first won by the tandem of Efren Bata Reyes and Django Bustamante in 2006. The duo won the title again in 2009.
Reyes and Bustamante are both Hall of Famers in World Pool, having won the World 9-Ball Championship. Both are also members of the Philippine national team under the Billiard Sports Confederation of the Philippines (BSCP), the recognized National Sport Association (NSA) for billiard sports by the Philippine Olympic Committee, International Billiards & Snooker Federation (IBSF), Asian Confederation of Billiard Sports (ACBS), and Philippine Sports Commission (PSC).
Bustamante won the World 9-Ball in 2010 and other world pool championships.
In 2010, the partnership of Dennis Orcollo and Roberto Gomez only managed a runner-up finish, but the same pair grabbed the title in 2013.
Carlo Biado and Jeff De Luna landed runner-up honors in 2019.
Biado won the 2021 US Open Pool Championship. He was the third Filipino to rule the event. Alex Pagulayan took the top plum in 2005, while Efren Reyes was the first Filipino to be hailed champion in 1994.
Orcollo, Biado, and Chua are also members of the Philippine national team under BSCP and still play for the country in the World Games (the Summer Games of non-Olympic sports), Asian Games, Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games (AIMAG) and Southeast Asian Games.
Except for Aranas, Gomez, De Luna, and Pagulayan were former members of the Philippine national team under BSCP and played for the country.
The Philippines, indeed, has been a strong contender globally in billiards. This is one sport where we can develop more athletes. Many do not take billiards seriously as a sport, but experts disagree.
While you may not run out of breath with the intensity of effort, the fact remains that you still burn calories playing billiards. The estimate is that playing one game is equivalent to walking 1.6 km. Play five and it’s like you walked a five-kilometer marathon.
Pool players obtain toned legs, back, and hips with all the constant bending and reaching out throughout the low-impact game. All the bending and stretching, especially with complex shots that require standing on one foot only, promote stability, balance, and flexibility.
Strength, power, and endurance
While being strong is the last thing you may think of pool players, note that optimal strength is required by these athletes. Optimal strength is the amount needed for maximum performance (which means any additional strength will not matter).
I’m always told not to hit the ball too hard. I thought I might be too strong but actually, I need to control that strength to successfully pocket the ball. Experts say that means good muscle memory, developed by hours of practicing the same shot. The proper stance, balance, and foundation required to be consistent also require strength.
Like many competition sports, billiards is not a mere physical game but a mental bout as well. Focusing on the ball and how to bank a shot is required the whole game. Since it is also a spectator sport, you should have enough skills to block off external stimuli from affecting your concentration.
Power should not be confused with strength. Starting strength in billiards is evident when you break the rack. Optimal power, on the other hand, refers to muscles that stabilize. In billiards, those muscles are the back, hips, and legs.
Billiards is not a sprint; hence, endurance is vital. Some can be in competition for 12 hours or even days. Endurance is required to remain competitive. Fatigue will only lead to expensive and disruptive mistakes.
Coordination, flexibility, and balance
The importance of coordination in this sport needs no further explanation. Hand-eye coordination is required, as well as a proper stance.
You also need flexibility to stretch. You are bent in almost every shot. How low you go impacts every shot. Your flexibility, or lack of it, will also impact your propensity to get injured, especially by complex shots.
Lack of balance in playing pool is disastrous. If the stance is too narrow or too wide, a player may lose balance. This will affect the timing, visual accuracy, and even stroke performance.
Focus, critical thinking, and cognitive skills
Like many competition sports, billiards is not a mere physical game but a mental bout as well. Focusing on the ball and how to bank a shot is required for the whole game. Since it is also a spectator sport, you should have enough skills to block off external stimuli from affecting your concentration.
You cannot just fire a shot without analyzing the situation! Every shot requires critical thinking. You have to apply logic in selecting a strategy or choosing between options. There are so many dynamics at play. Many serious athletes of the game apply physics and geometry in their mental calculations.
No two games are the same. Each rack broken provides a different layout. Every layout challenges the players’ imagination, visualization, creativity, and problem-solving skills.
Pool players are evolving into serious athletes. It’s not just a pub game anymore. The International Olympics Committee has recognized it as a sport since 1998. It’s played in the World Games, the Southeast Asian Games, Asian Games, and Mediterranean Games. The bid to include the game in the 2024 Paris Olympics was not successful. Hence, lobbying has started to include it in the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics.