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03-31-2005, 12:52 PM
Friday, April 01, 2005


Valle, Bustamante both confident

By Jimbo Gulle, Sports Editor

JAKARTA: Overcast skies, strong afternoon showers, bumper-to-bumper traffic and a gloomy hangar converted into a pool hall did nothing to dampen the mood of Gandy Valle and Francisco “Django” Bustamante when they got here Wednesday.

In fact, Valle and Bustamante were joking and smiling like a pair of winners even before they got down to business for the second leg of the San Miguel Asian 9-Ball Tour, hosted by the Indonesian capital for the first time.

The 28-year-old Valle won the first leg of the Tour organized by ESPN Star Sports nearly a month ago in Singapore, taking home $10,000, after becoming the first qualifier in the tournament’s history to win a stop in the four-leg series.

The victory also assured the Davao native of a spot in the 32-man field seeing action at the Hanggar Billiard and Recreation Center here—although he will again be unseeded, unlike his two preeminent compatriots, Bustamante and Efren “Bata” Reyes.

Django, currently ranked 7th in the world, was seeded second behind Reyes, who is still the favorite to win this leg after making the quarterfinals in Singapore like Bustamante.

“The Magician” earned his top seeding by being ranked No. 5 in the world—and by being overall champion of the Tour two years running, underscoring the Filipino dominance of the only qualifying series in Asia for the World 9-Ball Championships in Taiwan in July.

Reyes arrived here Thursday along with Lee Van Corteza, winner of the Manila leg last year, and Roberto Gomez Jr., another qualifier who will try to mimic Valle’s feat in the first leg.

Absent from the Filipino contingent this time is Antonio Gabica, a semifinalist in Singapore, who failed to earn a spot for the games here.

With the formidable “Gaga” out of commission, the chances for the rest of the players from 11 countries to get past the opening rounds starting Friday improved—although that also depends on their places in the draw, which was still to be held at presstime.

The organizers’ schedule for Thursday was actually delayed a couple of hours because the tournament’s official tables made by Brunswick were being held up by local customs officials.

The other seeded players, however, were already determined before the draw, with Chinese-Taipei getting three—two-time world champion Chao Fong Pang at No. 4, Yang Ching-Shun at No. 5 and Kuo Po-Cheng at No. 8.

Surprisingly, Taiwanese wunderkind Wu Chua Ching was unseeded despite losing to Valle in the first leg finals. So was his compatriot, Chu Hung-Ming.

Korean Jeong Young-Hwa got the No. 3 seed, Japan’s Satoshi Kawabata was at No. 6 and Malaysia’s Patrick Ooi gained seed No. 7. Like the rest of the competitors, they hope to break up the RP-Taiwan “five-on-five” in the series.

As the host country, Indonesia has four players in the field, while China, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam have two each. web page (http://www.manilatimes.net/national/2005/apr/01/yehey/sports/20050401spo1.html)