Watanabe, Filipino judokas face uphill climb in Asiad


Posted at Sep 24 2023 12:30 AM

Silver medalist Kiyomi Watanabe stands during the awards ceremony women's judo -63 kg at the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta on August 30, 2018. Sonny Tumbelaka, AFP/File.

Kiyomi Watanabe and the Filipino judokas are expecting a tough battle in the 19th Asian Games, with the secretary-general of the Philippine Judo Federation acknowledging the improvements made by other countries. 

Dave Carter of the Philippine Judo Federation sought to downplay gold medal expectations for the national team, even for Watanabe who was a silver medalist in the last Asiad in Jakarta. 

Leah Jane Lopez will open the campaign of Team Philippines when she battles Abiba Abuzhaknyova of Kazakhstan in the Round of 16 of the women's 48-kilogram on Sunday at the Xiaoshan Linpu Gymnasium in Hangzhou.

Also wading into battle is Shugen Nakano, who will face Saoud Alamiri of Kuwait in the Round of 32 of the men's 66-kilogram. The 26-year-old Nakano clinched the gold medal in the 31st Southeast Asian Games in Hanoi in 2022 before settling for silver in the 32nd biennial meet in Cambodia last May.

He will be competing against a 21-year-old Kuwaiti who finished fifth in the 2023 Arab Judo Championships and seventh in the 2021 Asia-Oceania Judo Championships.

Aside from Nakano and Lopez, comprising the national judo squad are Kessie Nakano (men's 73-kg), John Viron Ferrer (men's 81-kg), Carl Dave Aseneta (men's 100-kg), Rena Furukawa (women's 57-kg), Ryoko Salinas (women's 70-kg), Dylwynn Gimena (women's 78-kg), and Watanabe (women's 63-kg). Their coaches are Franco Teves, Gilbert Ramirez and Olympian Kodo Nakano in this four-day tourney that drew 203 competitors from 28 countries. 

"Winning the gold medal will not be easy. But if we're talking about medals of any color, I think our athletes have a chance," said Carter.

Watanabe remains the Philippines' brightest hope to win a medal in judo, though the former SEA Games champion missed the Hanoi edition of the biennial games due to an ACL injury. 

"Realistically speaking, it won't be easy," Carter said of Watanabe's campaign. "After her first match on Monday, she will be facing the top player in Asia. It's gonna be tough."


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