JAKARTA -- After falling just short of a gold medal in the 2018 Asian Games, Filipino-Japanese judoka Kiyomi Watanabe is now setting her sights on qualifying for the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2020.
Watanabe, a three-time gold medalist in the Southeast Asian Games, bowed to Japanese rival Nami Nabekura in the final of the -63 kilograms division in the Asiad last week to settle for the silver medal.
“Before my last match, I was really nervous so I couldn’t do my best,” the 22-year-old Watanabe admitted after the competition. “I have been practicing with her in Japan, and I had a plan, but I couldn’t execute it.”
Though Watanabe failed to reach the top of the podium, her silver medal was still much appreciated by Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) president Ricky Vargas and Philippine Judo Federation (PJF) president David Carter -- both of whom are backing Watanabe to make it to the 2020 Games in Tokyo.
“I was encouraging her to go for the Olympics,” said Vargas. “I was told that as of her ranking, this very moment, she’s qualified already for the Olympics.”
“So she just has to continue to keep her ranking there, and we’ll see her in the Olympics,” he added.
Indeed, if the Tokyo 2020 Games started today, Watanabe will be one of 37 judokas qualified to compete in the -63 kg division. Nabekura, her Asian Games conqueror, is also qualified.
Watanabe is currently ranked 19th in the world, while Nabekura is third.
“Right now pasok na pasok siya, kung ngayon gagawin ‘yung cut off,” Carter told reporters. “Pero of course, we still have two years.”
“Pasok siya, ‘yun lang (standing) ang dapat alagaan at i-maintain,” he added.
Watanabe, for her part, vowed to do her best to stay on track for her first Olympic stint.
“It will definitely motivate me for the Olympics,” she said of her silver medal finish in Jakarta. “The last time in the Asian Games, I couldn’t get a medal.”
“But this time, I did,” she added. “So I am progressing.”
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