by Rey Bancod
Johann Chua took up the sport of billiards at the age of nine, quit schooling at 13 and earned his first million at the age of 22.
Three months from now, Chua tries to win a gold medal for the country in the Southeast Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
“Matagal ko na pong pangarap na makasali sa SEA Games,” said Chua who just returned Monday from Indonesia where he placed third in a tournament.
Chua, however, had to practically beg to be included in the tryouts late March. He did not disappoint.
The 24-year-old Manila resident topped the double round-robin qualifying 9-ball event, beating two former world champions in the process.
Chua finished with a record of seven wins against three losses in the six-player field. His only defeats came at the hands of ex-world champion Efren “Bata” Reyes, Dennis Orcollo and Warren Kiamco.
Carlo Biado, who won a bronze two years ago in Singapore, finished second to join Chua as the country’s entries to the 9-ball individual event.
Orcollo and Kiamco, who wind up third and fourth, respectively, will see action in the men’s 9-ball doubles.
Former world titlist Django Bustamante rounded out the six-player cast.
Chua’s performance did not come as a surprise, having broken the Top 10 in the world rankings last year.
In 2015, Chua captured the All-Japan 9-ball championship in Osaka and brought home $28,000 (about R1.4 million)
He played five tournaments in the United States early this year, including the World 8-Ball in New York where he placed third.
Chua said he practices at least five hours during the day and plays money matches at night.
Still a bachelor, Chua said he’s used to playing under pressure like most Filipino players before him.
Chua is one of three rookies who made the national team. The others are Jef Roda and Basil Alcejar in men’s snooker.
Billiards association secretary-general Robert Mananquil said Reyes and Francisco dela Cruz have been tapped for English Billiards while Alvin Barbero and reserve Marlon Manalo round up the men’s snooker team.
Chezka Centeno and Rubilen Amit try to arrange another gold medal match in women’s 9-ball.
Only seven gold medals will be disputed in billiards.
In 2015, the Philippines collected three golds, one silver and five bronzes.