THE WPA World 10-Ball Women’s Championship trophy has returned to where it originally belonged, the planet’s billiards epicenter Philippines.

It was signed, sealed and delivered by an extraordinary lady from Zamboanga City who dared to dream it — Chezka Centeno.

Or world champion Chezka Centeno.

Beating legends after legends, Ms. Centeno punctuated her fairy tale story with a 9-5 decimation of three-time world 9-ball titlist Yu Han of China on a magical Sunday night to remember in Klagenfurt, Austria and crowned herself the globe’s new 10-ball queen.

The many-time Southeast Asian Games gold winner was nothing short of electric in her disposal of Ms. Yu, seizing a commanding 4-1 edge that the latter never relinquished as she unveiled one spectacular shot after another in a near flawless performance that netted her $50,000 (P2.8 million), or the biggest purse in the history of women’s pool.

When she drained the final ball, Ms. Centeno screamed in jubilation, shook the hands of Ms. Yu, bowed to a group of loud and appreciative crowd that included flag-waving Filipinos, and, when it all sank in, shed tears of joy.

Minutes later, Rubilen Amit, a two-time world 10-ball titlist including the event’s first in 2009 and Ms. Centeno’s mentor and idol, gave the latter the Philippine flag that she draped over her slim, shaking body as she cried again from the overwhelming emotion that had engulfed her.

“It was my dream to be world champion,” she said crying and laughing at the same time while being interviewed by the game announcer with Ms. Amit, herself in tears, by her side.

It was a moment that reverberated back home to 113.9 million sports glory-hungry Filipinos who woke up with the wonderful news on Sunday (Oct. 22).

It was a Cinderella finish that Ms. Centeno laced with equally mammoth triumphs over world pool icons Allison Fisher of England twice, the first coming in the elimination round and the other in the semis, last year’s winner Chou Chieh-Yu of Chinese Taipei in the quarters and Ms. Yu.

Her victory over Ms. Yu also avenged Ms. Amit’s stinging 9-3 setback in the quarters that shut the door and denied the latter’s bid to claim her first crown after last ruling it exactly a decade ago.

Ms. Centeno, however, made sure it landed in her possession and back home into a tiny archipelagic nation that already produced a row of world beaters headed by Efren “Bata” Reyes and Francisco “Django” Bustamante.

And it all started 19 years ago in dimly-lit pool halls in her hometown in Zamboanga City where she had to step on beer cases just to reach her shots.

“This journey started when I was a five-year-old with a dream, and today (Sunday), I’m living it,” she later posted on her Facebook account. “It’s a surreal moment that brings back memories of countless hours of hard work, tears, and disappointments.”

“They’re all worth it,” she added while thanking God, family, friends and supporters.

It sure does. — Joey Villar