MANILA, July 10, 2004
The worldís top cue masters will not only have to contend with former champion Efren "Bata" Reyes and world No. 1 Francisco "Django" Bustamante but 10 more ace Filipino pool sharks when the rich World Pool Championship fires off today in Taipei, Taiwan.

Dennis Orcullo and Gandy Valle further enhanced the localsí bid in the annual as they clinched the last two slots in the final qualifying day yesterday, raising to 12 the total number of Filipinos seeing action in the event championship which gathers the best and the brightest cue artists in the world.

The 25-year-old Orcullo thrust his cue stick in the air as he sank the winning 9-ball to defeat Kun-Fang Lee in a nail-biting 9-8 encounter.

"Iím so relieved because there wasnít much time left for me to win a qualifier, Orcollo said. "I was very nervous but I stayed in control against a very good player."

But Orcullo will be up against a slew of better players as he joined the talent-laden Group 2 where he will face last yearís semifinalist Tony Drago and Reyes, the 1999 champion who dominated the recent Asian Tour, including the Taiwan leg.

"I will try to play as well as I can and practice a lot. Iíve never beaten Efren but maybe I can now," said Orcullo.

But while Orcullo needed to pass through the proverbial eye-of-the-needle to make it to the world tilt, Valle got a free ride to the nine-day event when American Frank Alvarez backed out at the last minute due to illness.

Having had the best record among the reserves, Valle was tapped to take over Alvarezís slot in Group 13.

Valle lost in one final, two semifinals and one quarterfinal to edge Russian Evgeny Stalev, whom he beat in the quarterfinal of Qualifier 10, for the last berth.

"Since the first day Iíve wanted to qualify. Itís been so difficult and Iíve always been so close," Valle said.

"I knew a reserve would get in so I wanted to be placed as high as I could be and this is a great challenge for me now," he added.

Other Filipinos competing in the $350,000 event are Warren Kiamco, Lee Van Corteza, Ramil Gallego, Jose "Amang" Parica, Antonio Gabica, Marlon Manalo, Rodolfo Luat and Antonio Lining.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved