Few sportspeople have perfected their craft like Efren Reyes, but the one-time king of pool admits age is catching up with him as he finally yields to younger talent.
The 60-year-old Filipino says neck pain, his eyes and even the strength of his arms can betray him in long matches, and he is weary after losing to wave after wave of hotshots.
“That’s a long time ago,” he said at the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, when reminded of his heyday when he hoarded world titles and was widely regarded as the globe’s finest player.
“At this time there’s a lot of good players from the Philippines. Everybody can beat me.”
Reyes shuffled out of Singapore’s SEA Games in the semi-finals of one-cushion carom, an obscure, delicate game in which the Philippines has few players.
Two competitors must use their cue-ball to hit the only two other balls on a pocketless table, scoring one point for each successful shot. The winner is the first to 100.
Reyes’ vision and shot-making came to the fore as he clawed back from 80-56 down to level at 84-all, before a lapse in concentration allowed his opponent back to the table.
And Vietnam’s Ma Minh Cam, wearing a distinctive blue glove on his bridge hand to ease friction, seized victory with a 16 break on his next visit.
Reyes rued the mistake which consigned him to his third SEA Games bronze in the little-known sport.
“I missed an easy shot, if I hadn’t missed that maybe I would have won that game,” he said.
But even though his glories are firmly in the past and age now becoming a handicap, Reyes, who was next heading to the United States for a tournament there, says he has to keep playing.
“This is my job, playing pool. I make money through my sport,” he said, before walking to the stadium exit with his cue bag over his shoulder.