NOVEMBER 14, 2006
(STAR) By Nelson Beltran - The feat may not have the impact and thrill of a Manny Pacquiao fight, but for four hours Sunday night, millions of Filipino fans watched enthralled as Ronato Alcano flashed his wizardry on the green-felt table and crowned himself the new world pool king.

Thousands of pool fans actually stayed at the venue long after Alcano clobbered 1996 titlist Ralf Souquet of Germany, 17-11, in perhaps one of the most lopsided title victories in WPC history, lining up for autographs and photo-ops with the new champ.

Minutes after the triumph, President Arroyo joined the nation in greeting Alcano on his spectacular victory, saying he is another testament to Filipino excellence.

The Chief Executive said she saluted Alcano "for making the Filipino people proud once again by dominating the World Pool Championship."

"This victory not only showcased the Pinoy’s mastery of the game, but the fact that we never run out of champions of excellence in all fields," Mrs. Arroyo said. "I join all Filipinos here and all over the world who continue to cheer for our victories in all fronts of world competition."

She said Alcano’s triumph serves as an inspiration for the Filipino athletes competing in the upcoming Asian Games in Qatar and "for the younger generations to work hard in achieving our dreams for the greater good of the nation."

Pacquiao, deep in training for his coming final bout with Mexican Erik Morales, also sent congratulatory message to Alcano, among pool players backed by the Filipino boxing icon.

"Thank God for Ronnie’s victory. I hope he keeps on winning and my advice is for him to make good use of his winnings," said Pacquiao.

Senate President Manny Villar also filed a resolution, lauding Alcano for bringing the Philippines back in the map of the world of sports.

"Alcano’s victory is a triumph for the Filipino nation. He has given another reason for us all to be proud of. Iba talaga ang Pinoy," Villar said.

Sen. Pia Cayetano also congratulated Alcano for his win, saying the inspiring story of the new King of Pool showed the triumph of spirit over poverty and adversity.

"In a country sorely in need of modern-day heroes, Alcano’s victory came at the right place and time. Sports is such a unifying factor, especially in a country that is constantly embroiled in political and economic turmoil," said Cayetano, who herself saw action in the recent Venice and New York marathons.

Calamba Mayor Jun Chipeco said they will prepare a hero’s welcome for Alcano for making the Calambans proud. Chipeco noted the town had never produced a world champion before although they gave Alcano recognition earlier for being a SEA Games gold medalist.

Alcano, 34, said his WPC conquest would change his life forever.

"I hadn’t received this kind of treatment. Now I know how to be a world champion. This could lead to an entirely different life for me and my family," said Alcano in the post-match interview with the local and international press and before TV cameras beaming the proceedings live around the world.

"I had to go through many qualifying tournaments but now that I’m a world champion I feel life will be easier," he added.

He had his victories before, including the two gold medals he captured in last year’s 23rd SEA Games here. But this was the first time he was embraced by a grateful nation.

Souquet was No. 2 in the world while Alcano was nowhere near the top 100 before the tourney.

Alcano went into the final as the underdog but never looked in trouble as he led throughout the alternate break race-to-17 encounter.

He believed his success showed what could happen if one works hard at the sport or any endeavor he or she loves.

" To the young gifted players, pursue your dream. I know someday you will take over from today’s billiards heroes. You could be world champs," he said.

He said shifting to soft break worked wonders as he rolled past Roberto Gomez, Efren "Bata" Reyes, Kuo Po-cheng, Wu Chia-ching, Li He-wen and then Souquet in the final.

He became the third Filipino after Reyes, whose toothless grin endeared him to millions of pool fans here and abroad and the man earlier tipped to win the event here.

He earned $100,000 (roughly P5 million) for his feat.

"I’m still thinking about what I will do with the money since this is the first time I’ve ever had this amount," he said.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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