Medal hopes high in Tokyo for Watanabe

Kiyomi Watanabe judo

DECEMBER 5, 2019: Philippines’ Kiyomi Watanabe compete during the women’s -63 kg in 30th SEA Games Judo. INQURER FILE PHOTO/ Sherwin Vardeleon

Kiyomi Watanabe won’t just be the first Filipino female judoka to compete in the Olympics. She just might be the first from the country to medal, too.

That’s how the Philippine Judo Federation president Dave Carter summed up the 24-year-old Filipino-Japanese athlete’s medal chances in the Tokyo Games next month.

“In judo, there is always the chance. We’d be happy with any color of medal,” Carter told the Inquirer on Thursday. “It’s not easy what these athletes have gone through to get here.”

And even at the Olympics proper, things won’t get any easier for the four-time Southeast Asian (SEA) Games champion: Standing in her way of medaling are competitors from France, Slovenia and Japan.

Continental quota

She ranked 41st in the world in the women’s -63-kilogram division and made it through via the continental quota.

“She needs to refine some techniques; this is our opinion as well as that of the local coaches,” admitted Carter of the country’s lone judoka who won by ippon over all her opponents in dominating the 2019 SEA Games.Watanabe, who is born to a Cebuano mother and a Japanese father, has been training in Yamanashi and Tokyo since last year.

Before her, John Baylon was the most dominant Filipino in the sport in the region, having won nine SEA Games golds while donning the Philippine colors in the 1988 and 1992 Olympics.

In 2012, Filipino-Japanese Tomohiko Hoshina took part in the London Games. Both Hoshina and Baylon failed to reach medal matches. INQ

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