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‘Bata’ Reyes bows to Vietnamese foe for another SEA Games bronze

/ 07:58 PM December 06, 2019

Philippine pool legend Efren “Bata” Reyes during a carom match in the 30th Southeast Asian Games. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—In what could likely be his last Southeast Asian Games stint, Efren “Bata” Reyes, as all legends do, yielded to Father Time and bowed out in the 1-Cushion Carom semifinal after a 100-14 loss to Vietnamese star Dinh Nai Ngo Friday.

Reyes, widely hailed as the greatest pool player ever, settled for the bronze medal, his fifth medal overall—all bronzes—throughout his SEA Games career.

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“I think you all saw what happened. I only scored 14,” Reyes, the many-time world champion also known as The Magician for his wizardry on the pool table, said in Filipino.

“If he played the way he performed back in my heyday, I would’ve beaten him. I used to hit 20, 30, even 40 straight before, but now I can only do two,” he said, wearing the familiar toothless smile of his.

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In a game where taking the first turn is crucial, Ngo zoomed to a 23-0 headstart before Reyes finally got his first crack at the table.

Kept waiting on his chair, Reyes blew his first chance and just couldn’t get into his groove.

The 65-year-old Reyes’ longest run was six but that was when Ngo had already taken an insurmountable 76-8 advantage in the race to 100 points.

Reyes was coming off a 100-37 romp of Punyawee Thongchai of Thailand on Wednesday to enter the semis.

There was no denying though, that the magic that captivated the sport for decades had worn off.

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His charisma, on the other hand, is an entirely different story.

After hitting the century mark and barging his way to the gold medal match, Ngo shook Reyes’ hand and asked for a picture.

“I admire him a lot. He’s a legend,” Ngo said through a Vietnamese television reporter, who served as his interpreter.

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